Houston Astros Draft Prospect Profile: Zack Collins
There aren’t many rules when it comes to the MLB Draft, but the 1st one is written in all caps, bolded, underlined and written a hundred times: DO NOT DRAFT TO YOUR NEEDS.
In any other sport, teams draft to their needs because it fills an instant hole, closes the gap on a position of weakness. But in baseball, where minor league players take anywhere from 2-5 years to develop, your needs will continue to be a weak spot on your team. And since no prospect is a sure-thing, those weak spots can be present for an even longer period of time. The strategy every team uses as they go into the draft is to take the best player on their board, regardless of what round it is.
The Astros, having built a minor league system with as much depth as any system in baseball, can afford to take whomever they choose. Jeff Luhnow being the King of the Draft knows all of the rules and how to make the most of every pick, and from past success, the expectation is that he will continue his draft dominance.
But one prospect in this year’s draft is a player that is both a need (depending at how you look at it) and the possible best player on the board at pick #17 is University of Miami catcher Zach Collins.
Collins was viewed as one of the tops bats in the 2013 draft and projected a second round talent, but due to his strong commitment to Miami, teams overlooked Collins due to issues with his signability. Drafted by the Reds in the 27th Round, he easily turned it down to play college baseball for his dream school.
Collins was voted the National Freshman of the Year by Baseball America his first year at Miami, batting .298/.427/.556 with 11 HRs, 54 RBIs, 14 2B, 3 3B, and 42 BBs in 205 ABs in route to leading Miami to a 44-19 record in 2014.
The following year Perfect Game pegged him as a 2nd Team All-American after batting .302/.455/.587 with 15 HRs, 71 RBIs, 14 2B, 5 3B, and 57 BBs in 242 ABs. In 2015, Collins was a huge piece that led Miami to their first College World Series since 2008.
Though so far the season isn’t near completion, Collins’s play has vaulted him into the 1st Round conversation. In 2016, he has batted .390/.558/.669 with 10 HRs, 45 RBIs, 8 2B, and 55 BB in 136 ABs. Miami is ranked in the Top-5 in most major polls and are picked to make it back to the College World Series this summer.
As a hitter, Collins is one of the best in the draft, as evident by his 36 career college HRs and career .333 batting average. He gets on base at a very high rate, owning a career .476 OBP. He has a good eye at the plate, generating a lot of walks, and while K rate is slightly above-average, he continues to improve his K numbers.
As a fielder, like most young catchers the question is whether or not he can stick behind the plate in the long-run. It’s no secret that an offensive catcher is rare these days as most teams look for the defensive field general and risk poor offensive production from the position, but Collins has worked hard to try to answer the question with a resounding “YES” and put that question to rest. If he can’t stick at catcher, he also projects to be an above average corner infield bat or possible corner outfielder.
As stated previously, prospects are never a sure-thing, and with that being said, current Astro catcher Jason Castro has caused a lot of frustration offensively as he disappears as a threat in the lineup at times. Defensively, Castro is in the upper echelon of the MLB. His lack of production at the plate sooner or later will start to outweigh his defensive value. Though, Castro is a prime example of the above average catcher/ below-average bat that teams now are starting to look for.
Collins is more polished at the plate than most prep bats in this year’s draft due to his experience at Miami, so his path to the Majors should be shorter than those of his soon-to-be minor league counterparts, but Collins will still need to continue to work to stay behind the plate full-time at the Major League level. The estimated time of arrival for Collins could be 2018 or 2019 if he continues to hit at the rate he has in college.
If teams think he has what it takes to stick at catcher, Collins could be off the board before the Astros are even on the clock. If not, he still projects to go in the late 1st Round because his bat is 1st Round caliber, and that alone could put him in the conversation at pick #17 for Luhnow and the Front Office.
**Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images**