Prep Baseball Report

5 Most Memorable Catchers in the Peach State

Justin Goetz
Assistant Scouting Director

Despite being the most important defensive position in baseball, catchers just don’t get enough credit. If the average fan doesn’t notice them behind the plate, that typically means they’re doing a good job. Like umpires or offensive lineman, they are only noticed defensively when they do something wrong. From 100 mph foul tips to the body/mask to sitting in a crouch for hours, these guys are the grinders of grinders. They put their bodies and long term health on the line and do what no one else wants to do for the team. What typically makes GA catchers more special is their offensive impact, and that is the case for all 5 backstops in this article. While their value is highest behind the plate, this fantastic 5 would still have an enormous impact due to their bats. The intangibles they have are just as loud as the tools and athleticism.

Vahn Lackey C, 2023, Collins Hill
Uncommitted. 6-foot-2, 188 pounds. Well rounded backstop with rare athleticism for the position. A virtual unknown until this spring, he’s picked up an unheard of 4 D1 offers a month before graduating! One of the younger players in the class, Vahn has played against competition that was always a year plus older than him. He was undersized for the position his first 3 years of HS, which forced him to become advanced in many areas of his game to make up for the size/strength differential. This led to him developing one of the best catch & throw tools in the southeast. He absolutely wowed our PBR scouts, MLB scouts, and college recruiters alike by throwing out some of the fastest players in the state. His pop times consistently range from 1.88 - 1.91 due to a lightning quick transfer+release and deadly accurate arm. All throws carry as a current MLB avg arm that will end up at least A/AVG. His receiving is silky smooth and he controls each pitch with advanced framing while just being at ground floor of his eventual strength. The most agile, flexible backstop I’ve seen at this age in quite some time. Offensively, his athleticism shines through high level swing mechanics and effortless bat speed. His hitting intangibles are even more impressive, and the mixture of his vast offensive skill set really put him in a different breed of catcher. He also plays SS on his off days, and I feel he could truly succeed at any position on the field.

GHSA Stats - .442 AVG, 29 R, 38 H, 8 2B, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 16 SB.                       

Best 3 tools - Arm, Glove, Hit for Avg.                          

Separators - Catch & Throw, Agility, Projection, Pitch Recognition.

Cale Stricklin C, 2023, North Oconee
UGA Commit. This is one of the lowest risk players in the state who is an almost sure bet to have a lengthy pro future. Why? First off he’s just a really good, versatile baseball player who can impact the game in a variety of ways. His intangibles are off the charts from leadership qualities to instincts. It would take a few games worth of filming only him to show his true impact in all facets. He’s going to be a special defender, and his toughness is the foundation of his defensive prowess. Cale doesn’t take a play off, he constantly encourages his staff, and calls his own game. This is the type of dude any arm would love to throw to, as he’s a very good receiver and blocker for his age. He handles his high octane pitching staff with ease, anticipating very well on offspeed pitches outside the zone. In the run game, his head is constantly on a swivel showing his elite baseball IQ. He always knows the right time to back pick runners, and his current A/AVG MLB arm strength plays accurately both on throws from the knees and feet. Every throw he makes looks like a heat seeking missile, with his quick transfer and ideal OH arm action get the ball out in a flash. Stricklin’s bat has just as much impact in him being a low risk player. His negative move features an advanced lower half sink, the hips are well paced (keeping his forward move on time w/ pitch release), and his stride gains enough ground to create lower half momentum (while keeping his head still for tracking). He has a consistent gap to gap approach, and his smooth inside-out swing allows him to keep his hands inside the ball and create easy backspin. The future Dawg also has the short, direct swing path and can front arm shrink to turn the barrel in tight space when challenged in. But he’s not just a catcher, Cale is up to 90 on the mound with a riding FB and is North Oconee’s key high leverage reliever. He has a 12-6 CB in the low to mid 70’s, and will undoubtedly pitch for UGA early in his career.

GHSA Stats - .402 AVG, .490 OBP, 1.051 OPS, 2 HR, 7 2B, 24 RBI. 8 INN, 3 SV, .000 ERA.                        
Best 3 tools - Arm, Glove, Hit for Avg.                        

Separators - Baseball IQ, Catch & Throw, Receiving & Blocking, Versatility.

Tyler Phillips C, 2023, Grayson
Georgia Highlands Commit. 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. It is a bit confusing to see how under the radar this prototype backstop has been, but then again Grayson is a bit harder to get to than most Metro - Atlanta schools. But that doesn’t change the fact that he is going to be one of the best players in JuCo baseball in the next 2 years. Other than the MLB body, the first thing you’ll notice when Phillips steps in the box is athleticism. He creates a quiet rhythm in the hips & hands, with a dynamic forward move that checks some advanced boxes (lower half sink, hip hinge+coil, base doubles in stride, gradual stretch in separation). Combine the well timed swing mechanics with unbelievable bat strength, and what you get is a pure missile every time he gets a barrel. Even when he doesn’t catch FB’s on the sweet spot, the ball still jumps. The best part is, he shows every pure hitter trait needed to produce power on a consistent basis. Pitch recognition, plate discipline, and ability to decelerate on offspeed. His approach is one of the most complete in the class regardless of position, true all fields juice. Tyler can manipulate the barrel to any pitch location with no effort. He’s a magician with his swing path and can front arm shrink, inside out, steepen or flatten barrel angle in the snap of a finger. Defensively, the 1st thing that stands out is his cannon for an arm that’s currently A/AVG MLB at worst. His smooth, lightning quick transfer plays up his arm even better. With consistent times in the low 1.9’s and even visiting the 1.8’s already, this is a weapon in the run game. He also throws out a high amount of runners on blocks, showing his instincts, agility, and ability to remain calm when runners challenge him. The receiving and anticipation stand out on offspeed pitches, and he leads his pitching staff with ease. Don’t forget this name!

GHSA Stats - .420 AVG, .537 OBP, .679 SLG, 12 2B, 4 HR, 31 RBI.                        

Best 3 tools - Raw Power, Hit for Avg, Arm.                          

Separators - Power Production, Bat Strength, Swing Mechanics, Arm Strength.

Ariston Veasey C, 2024, Starrs Mill
UGA Commit. 6-foot-1, 188 pounds. This is far from just a catcher, he’s an elite athlete who could play any position on the field. The fact that Ariston loves playing the most difficult position on the field just shows what type of mental and physical toughness he has. Not only will he be a key draft prospect in one of the deepest classes I’ve ever seen, but he’s why I’ve been extremely boastful about the catching talent in the state of Georgia. We’ve always had a steady flow of home grown draft guys at the position (McCann, Flowers, Ford, Campusano, Banfield) over the years, but the depth in these next 3 classes is incredible. I feel Veasey fits right in with the pro names mentioned above, and is one of the most toolsy players we’ve ever had at the position here. The bat speed is absolutely electric and the highest we’ve had in the past year plus at our showcases (87.5 mph), but his swing plays to all fields. His inside-out swing is a work of art, allowing him to drive the ball to the right half of the field like few others in the state. We’re talking EV’s of 95+ with regularity to the right side of the field, quite unheard of in a HS RHH. But challenging him on the inner half is just as risky, as he has the innate feel to turn the barrel in tight space and the violent bat speed to cause instant regret in any pitcher. This is a 5 tool C with the best arm strength in the country for the class velocity wise. The transfer is smooth and he’s also very accurate, which is a must to truly shut down run games. I’ve seen him backhand a dirt ball and throw a seed to stop fast runners in their tracks on multiple occasions. The instincts show up consistently. He just does so many eye opening things behind the plate naturally, and his agility+flexibility allow him to shift & block at a high level. His elite work ethic will only lead to his game becoming more complete at a rapid rate. Oh yeah, he’s up to 94 on the mound with a 2700 RPM CB!

GHSA Stats - .396 AVG, .514 OBP, 6 2B, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 14 BB.                        

Best 3 tools - Arm, Raw Power, Hit for Avg.                         

Separators - Athleticism, Bat Speed, Approach, Arm Strength.

Levi Clark C, 2024, Walton
Tennessee Commit. 6-foot-2, 195 pounds. This has been one of the biggest helium names of this spring, with showings in back to back GDC tournaments at LakePoint that launched him into the stratosphere. It's not often you find a catcher with the rare hitting traits Levi has. First it starts with swing mechanics that are not only very simplified, but some of the smoothest, most efficient in the entire country. It wasn’t always this way, as he’s put in some incredible work on his swing over the past year. He stays on his legs from start to finish and the hips are the engine of the swing, creating a perfectly sequenced domino effect in his upper half. He’s a backside dominant hitter with elite linear connection who keeps his head and upper half behind the baseball at all times. His load is extremely simple and there’s no wasted movement getting into launch position. The advanced simplicity leads to very good body control, and allows him to focus on timing up release points instead of having parts in the swing get in his way. His prototype catcher build, raw power, and hand eye coordination have been there for years. The compactness of his hands and back elbow tuck to the body put him in a beyond elite position to control his swing path and get to any pitch in any zone. It allows his hands to stay inside the ball and barrel to stay in the zone forever, even enabling him to pull outer half pitches in the middle and upper quadrants. The bat strength is on a different level, with force in the hands thru contact only seen at the highest levels of the game. With both metal and wood, the sound is just different off the bat. If Levi bunted (he never will have to), the ball would probably go into the outfield. When you add in his feel behind the dish and current MLB avg arm strength, the full picture of this player really comes together. He’s one of the smoothest receivers in the state, and he makes catching the electric stuff of his overall pitching staff look easy (3 D1 arms on his staff). His toughness is on another level, as I saw him take a bat to the head (on a backswing) without even coming out of the game. Despite being a big time SEC commit, he’s one of the more humble players I’ve been around and everyone who knows him loves him. His numbers this year speak for themselves, but you have to see him in person to get how rare he is as a player.

GHSA Stats - .358 AVG, .505 OBP, .691 SLG, 9 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 27 BB/HBP.                        

Best 3 tools - Hit for Avg, Raw Power, Arm.                         

Separators - Swing Mechanics, Timing, Bat 2 Ball, Receiving.

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