Sox see Collins becoming 'very good catcher'

No. 10 pick in '16 Draft cites Pilates for flexibility behind plate

Sox see Collins becoming 'very good catcher'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- John Orton didn't know a great deal about Zack Collins when the White Sox selected the left-handed-hitting catcher with the 10th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.

So the White Sox Minor League catching coordinator studied some of Collins' work as he played for the University of Miami in the College World Series. Orton immediately liked what he saw.

"I thought his hands work good, and he blocked the ball pretty well. He doesn't look stiff back there," said Orton, speaking about Collins during this week's hitters' minicamp at Camelback Ranch. "So right away I was pleasantly surprised.

"Everyone talked about his bat, which is his strength. But I think he's going to be a very good catcher. I see no reason why he shouldn't be an above-average Major League catcher someday."

Collins on improving his skills

Collins, who's rated as the club's No. 6 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, was one of the 16 players to take part in the three-day camp from Monday to Wednesday. He had a busy 2016 with the Hurricanes and the White Sox, finishing as part of the taxi squad for the Arizona Fall League's Glendale Desert Dogs.

After hitting .258 with six homers, seven doubles and 18 RBIs for Class A Winston-Salem, Collins had a mere 22 at-bats for Glendale. His focus fell upon catching as many bullpens as possible, further refining his defensive skills.

"An uncountable amount," said Collins with a laugh when asked how many bullpen sessions he went through. "I caught a ton, but it was definitely good for me. I got a lot more comfortable with the older guys that throw harder and had better stuff."

The remainder of the offseason produced a vacation to New York and a cruise to Mexico with his girlfriend and family, so no baseball until his return to Glendale this week. Collins also began doing Pilates, which directly helped him with catching.

"My hips feel more flexible. I just feel a lot better and I guess have more endurance and stability throughout my body. I feel good," Collins said. "It's a lot of core strengthening: From your abs to your back muscle and flexibility throughout your hips and your body and stuff like that.

"It keeps people healthy and I guess teaches you how to use every muscle in your body to do stuff that you do. We tend to just use the big muscles, quads and stuff like that, so I guess it's just different. It's not too much resistance, but it's a lot of body weight and you've never felt your body so heavy in your life. It's crazy."

Bowman Hitting Challenge

Offense never has been a concern with Collins. He hits the ball to all fields with power potential important at a premium position such as catcher. The question has been whether Collins can stick defensively.

But Collins has nothing but confidence in his ability. The White Sox share that feeling.

"He has the perfect demeanor to be an everyday catcher," Orton said. "He seems to pick things up very quick. He's a very smart kid. He researches a lot of things. He's always looking at other big league catchers or guys that do things a certain way and he comes to me with things, which is great.

"I've kind of been trying to just be real simple and hands off, and he's already -- as far as just receiving and the blocking and throwing, the stuff we have worked on -- he's already picked up on a lot. He's already improved a lot in those areas."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.