No. 15: Red Sox catching prospect Nathan Hickey
Nathan Hickey has one of the best offensive games from a catching prospect I’ve ever seen. It’s all there for him. He can hit for average and power. But he’ll also show off a great eye at the plate and draw plenty of walks. Offensively, he’s the elite of the elite.
However, there are two sides to baseball. And Hickey has question marks defensively. He does have a very strong arm. So that’s a plus. Meanwhile, I’ve seen him make quite a few good defensive plays. But overall it’s a struggle. Not a great pitch-framer or plate-blocker. He isn’t always accurate with his throws, and could improve when it comes to fielding.
So the question becomes, what is more valuable here? The answer is pretty obvious. Hickey isn’t a great defender, but he isn’t useless there. Meanwhile, the hitting could be game-changing.
The right-handed hitter slashed .263/.415/.522 with 18 doubles and 16 home runs between Low-A and High-A this season. He drove in 62 runs and scored 50 more. In 328 plate appearances, Hickey drew 63 walks. Working counts and finding a pitch to drive was something Hickey was doing on a regular basis in 2022. That’s impressive for anyone. A 22-year-old catcher (a position not always known for offense) really draws your attention though.
So far, the Red Sox seem determined to make it work at catcher with Hickey, and I love that. He’s young and learning. The defense did see some improvements as the year went on. If he can even be an average defender, he’ll be one of the best at his position. Give him a few years at catcher and see if they can figure it out with him. Switching Hickey to first base would just lower his value.
And like I said, there were improvements. And with just 516 2/3 innings behind the plate in the minor leagues, that’s great that we’re already seeing that.
Defense and running will likely never be big parts of his game. But he could limit base stealers. And offensively he has legitimate potential to post high .300s in OBP and crank 25-plus home runs in a season. Elite production at the plate.