The catching depth in this organization took a hit after the 2012 season when it was announced that both Greg Bird and Christopher Breen would be moved off the position. The Yankees are still one of the best in the league in terms of catching depth. They possess one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball, and in addition to that several other players with solid long term potential. We saw just how valuable catchers can be this offseason with the millions of dollars paid out to Russell Martin, who batted .211 this past season, and AJ Pierzynski who can’t play defense.
1. Gary “The Sanchize” Sanchez: 20 years old, 6-foot-2, 220-pounds, swings right handed. BBDP Ranking: #2 (would be number one if the Manny Banuelos injury was known at the time of the ranking). Baseball America ranking: 81. This was an obvious choice. Sanchez combines a top notch minor league bat with improving defense and decent athleticism. He has strong hands and quick wrists, excellent power and good patience at the plate. His defense is solid right now, but with his build he will have to continue to work hard to stay ahead of the game. He has great raw arm strength and good accuracy on his throws. He’s not seen as a great receiver or blocker, but he improved significantly on those aspects of his game in 2012 to become more average. One of the best catching prospects in all of baseball, he should get some experience in Double-A by the end of 2013. His likely ETA is 2015, and his ceiling is a major league all-star catcher who bats in the middle of the order.
He hit .290 and had 18 homeruns with an .829 OPS in 2012 as a 19 year old in Low-A and High-A. Pretty impressive.
2. Austin “BRomine” Romine: 24 years old. 6-foot-0, 220-pounds, swings right handed. BBDP Ranking: #11. Injuries were his Achilles’ Heal in 2012. His back problems, however, have not hurt his standing with the organization. After trading Jesus Montero it’s obvious the organization has viewed Romine as the catcher of the future for a long time. He’ll be healthy to start 2013. Given the Yankees inactivity with the catching market this offseason, it appears Romine is primed to get some time as the starting catcher in the Bronx this year. His power hasn’t come along as expected, but a lot of that has to do with the back injuries. Now that he’s healthy, we should see what he can really do with both the bat and behind the dish. He missed a lot of developmental time with respect to hitting, so there’s no telling what the team may get from him in that department. The defense, however, is apparently not in question. He’s great with pitchers, he has plus plus leadership skills, and plus receiving and blocking behind the plate. If he can play his standard defense and hold his own with the bat in 2013, Yankees fans will forget Russell Martin’s name quicker than you can say $189 million. The ceiling at this point is an above average everyday catcher with top notch defensive skill. The ETA is 2013.
He hit just .243/.333/.408/.741 in 2012, but he was injured the whole time. He still managed to have a 24% caught stealing percentage, consistent with his career average.
3. JR “Murph” Murphy: 21 years old (to start 2013), 5-foot-11, 195-pounds, swings right handed. He was signed for his bat with the caveat in mind that if he sticks at catcher it will be a major bonus. After a trial in the outfield, Murphy has not only stuck at catcher but has actually also become a plus defender. He’s now a good receiver, leader, game-caller, and has a good arm. By good I mean better than average. He is an excellent hitter to go along with this. His patience fits well with the Yankees philosophy of seeing a lot of pitches. His average in 2012 (.248) left a lot to be desired, but most scouts feel that his approach and the type of contact he is making is not reflected by his average. He managed to hit nine homeruns last season in High-A and Double-A. If he continues to build on that season, he could find himself in the discussion for some catching reps in the Bronx by 2014. His realistic ceiling is an above average all-around starting major league catcher.
4. Peter “PO” O’Brien: 22 years old, 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, swings right handed. There’s only one other catcher in the organization with the offensive ceiling of O’Brien, and that’s Gary Sanchez. The question mark for O’Brien, as with many big bodied catchers, is his defense. He has a cannon for an arm but he lacks mobility which can be a major issue behind the dish. He struggles to block balls and frame pitches because of that. His defense greatly improved throughout the season though. He has a long way to go if he wants to remain a catcher, and this appears to be the major obstacle for him. His offensive numbers were not impressive in 2012. He ended up with a .212/.256/.401/.656 line, but managed to hit 10 homeruns in just 212 at bats. The power is obviously there, but the average must improve. He was battling a wrist injury for the whole 2012 season, so hopefully that was a factor in his ineffectiveness. If he can bring up his average and improve his defense, his ceiling is through the roof. You can’t teach the type of power that O’Brien has, especially for a catcher. Next season will be an important one, as the organization hopes he can show improvement across the board.
5. Isaias “The Hata” Tejeda: 21 years old. 6-foot-0, 195-pounds, swings right handed. Tejeda struggled in his first experience under the lights in Staten Island. It’s tough to knock him too hard though for a few reasons. First of all he was not getting consistent at bats, especially when Peter O’Brien came around. He was also adjusting to a new climate and playing under the lights for the first time in his career. That is no excuse for a .187 average, but there is still hope he can adjust and become a better hitter. He only had 120 at bats in 2012, so there is hope that with more consistent at bats he can start to come around. As a catcher who needs a lot of work on his defense, he can’t afford too many more seasons like this one, but he still has time to develop. His 2011 season in the GCL where he hit six homeruns and batted .331/.402/.563/.965 is not yet forgotten, but it will be soon if he doesn’t improve drastically as a player from his 2012 season.
5a. Dalton Smith: 18 years old, 6-foot-3, 205-pounds. He was drafted in the 36th round by the Yankees and they watched him for a while. They liked him enough to sign him late in the game and let him catch a few games for the GCL. It didn’t go all that well but he only had 28 at bats. I don’t know much about this kid except that he has excellent projectability, is one of the youngest players drafted by the Yankees in 2012, and he has some serious long term power potential. 2013 will be his coming out party, and hopefully he has learned a lot this offseason and worked hard.