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D-backs expressing interest in HS catcher Stephenson

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Kennesaw Mountain High School (Kennesaw, Ga.) catcher Tyler Stephenson missed about a month this spring with a strain in his side, but since he came back in early April, national scouts and directors have been rushing in to see him, which is a reflection of his raw ability and this being the worst crop of amateur catchers anyone can remember. Interest in Stephenson is so high right now that Arizona GM Dave Stewart (pictured) came to see him Friday in Kennesaw Mountain's playoff doubleheader. Stephenson homered twice among his five hits on the day, including an opposite-field grand slam that followed walks in his previous three plate appearances (two intentional, one semi-intentional) before the opposing coach was forced to pitch to him.

(Speaking of which, intentional walks shouldn't exist at the high school level. They're often bad strategy -- both times Stephenson was intentionally walked, the courtesy runner ended up scoring -- and they don't do anything to help develop any players involved.)

Stephenson is very strong and looks like he'll hit for both average and power, maybe more of the latter. After an exaggerated leg kick that's mostly for show -- his front foot is down in plenty of time -- Stephenson has outstanding rotation in a powerful right-handed swing that allows him drive the ball to all fields. For all of the leverage in that swing, however, he keeps his head and midsection steady through contact. He didn't have to make any game throws while I was there -- Kennesaw Mountain blew out their opponents in both games -- but his warmup throws in between innings showed plus arm strength with unusual accuracy. He's big for a catcher, already 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds, built like a young Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and very few catchers that size have been able to spend more than a few seasons behind the plate in the majors. (Just three men at least 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds have caught 1,000 games in the majors, and two of them, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Joe Mauer, were injury-prone for their whole tenures as backstops.) I think Stephenson has a mid-first-round bat, with a modest boost to his value because he is a potential catcher, but I think a team drafting him on the assumption that he'll remain a catcher for the long term is probably being too optimistic.