The pride of the Yankees’ farm system is at the catching position with Gary Sanchez, one of baseball’s top prospects, slowly inching ever closer to the majors. Still, with Francisco Cervelli (currently on the 60-day DL), John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine, the team is not short on major league-ready catchers.
Murphy was this year’s big surprise, as he became Brian McCann’s backup when Cervelli went down. In limited at-bats for the Yankees, Murphy has an impressive .881 OPS, serving as a valuable backup and occasional pinch-hitter.
But Sanchez, 21, is the prized jewel of the Yankees’ farm system. On the 80-grade rating system, scouts gave him a 55 hitting and 65 power rating, but another one of his best assets is his throwing arm, rated a 70. Once Sanchez polishes his game behind the plate, he could very well continue the long line of great Yankee backstops like Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada.
In Sanchez’s case, he may well be biding his time between Double- and Triple-A over the next two or three seasons, this one included. The young catcher ended 2010 in Single-A Staten Island, then made it to Single-A Advanced Tampa by 2012. At 20-years-old, Sanchez found himself promoted to Double-A, where he started his 2014 season.
His presence has created a logjam with Peter O’Brien, a catcher whose offense led to a promotion to Double-A this season.
O’Brien was put at third base previously, but he made 18 errors in 38 games, prompting the organization to try him out in right field. Jason Cohen, of Pinstripe Alley, suggested first base as a fit for O’Brien since Trenton is currently thin at that position and the organization is rich with catchers.
Sanchez’s offensive numbers took a dip for Double-A Trenton of late, but his ascension through the ranks at such a young age has already been impressive enough. The Yankees will also be keen not to rush Sanchez, who reportedly needs work receiving, blocking and with other defensive nuances behind the plate.
In the meantime, McCann is signed for five years, but he will likely have to catch less toward the end of his tenure. One option for McCann is for him to play first after Teixeira’s contact expires in 2017 (but that’s pure speculation). The Yankees also have Romine, Sanchez’s polar opposite, which is to say his defense is outstanding and his offense is not (he’s got a .558 OPS in Triple-A).
There is also one other, far less known catching prospect, Luis Torrens, a ripe 18-year-old playing in Single-A Staten Island. Torrens is small for a catcher at six feet tall and 171 pounds, which also figures to take away from his power. Scouts say he is more defensively talented with 60 and 50 ratings on his arm and fielding, respectively, compared to 45 ratings for his hitting and power. At 18, he could still develop physically, but he has a long road in a farm system full of catching talent.
It’s a position the Yankees can call their best asset in working a trade in the near future. With Sanchez, Cashman can deem him off-limits to drive up the asking price or, you know, to keep him.
The Yankees could also benefit from Murphy’s early success in the wake of Cervelli’s injury, albeit in limited plate appearances. But Murphy has also displayed a good defensive presence behind the plate. Cervelli is set to come off the DL in mid-June, way ahead of the July trade deadline and is on track to be healthy when activated, the Star-Ledger reported.
If he can stay healthy, either he or Murphy, 23, could become trade bait for the Yankees as they try to land either or a starting pitcher, an infielder or both. Cervelli, 28, has been impressive on offense and defense. If the Yankees are really committed to making Sanchez the catcher of the future, expect to see either Cervelli or Murphy dealt this year.