Non-Roster Invitee Catchers: Bobby Wilson, Gary Sanchez, and Everything In Between

Bobby Wilson numbah one! I guess. - Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Ready to catch the excitement of Wilson, Sanchez, and co.?

It’s another trip around the Tampa block for three of the New York Yankees’ non-roster invitee catchers, and brand-new experiences for the other two. It’s certainly the most unusual camp the Yanks have had for catchers in quite some time since there is no clear front-runner for the starting gig. While it’s most likely to go to either Francisco Cervelli or Chris Stewart, it is still a great opportunity to impress the higher-ups with no clear future at the position beyond the distant promise of Mr. Sanchez. Without further ado, here are the fellas who at the very least will get a chance to catch some All-Stars and possible Hall of Famers.

Francisco Arcia
Bats: Left Throws: Right
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 23 (born 9/14/1989)
2012 (A-): 256 PA, .246/.319/.384, 14 2B, 5 HR, .324 wOBA, 95 wRC+, 25% CS%

Arcia is a standard run-of-the-mill organizational catcher. He’s been with the Yankees since an assignment to the Dominican Summer League a few months prior to his 18th birthday. Next season will be Arcia’s seventh in the organization, and he has never played above Low-A Charleston, likely due to a dismal .247/.334/.381 career triple slash in the minors. Arcia became Charleston’s starter after Sanchez moved up, and it’s likely that he’ll report back there after camp unless the Yankees decide to promote last year’s second round pick, Peter O’Brien (.202/.249/.394 in 48 games with Staten Island last year). Arcia has a good defensive reputation within the organization though, so he’s been able to hang on as a backup after injuries curtailed his ’10 and ’11. Good for him, I guess—it somehow got him a Spring Training invitation.

Kyle Higashioka
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 22 (born 4/20/1990)
2012 (A+): 138 PA, .185/.243/.371, 5 2B, 6 HR, .279 wOBA, 70 wRC+, 39% CS%

This California native and ’08 seventh round pick spent the majority of last year in High-A Tampa backing up Murphy and later, Sanchez. He was in camp last year, and the story’s the same—fine defender, putrid hitter. Noticing a pattern? Higashioka can’t even hit A-ball pitching, and a brief 2-for-26 cameo in Double-A Trenton must have been difficult to watch. He’ll probably be backing up Sanchez at Tampa again after camp breaks.

J.R. Murphy
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 21 (born 5/13/1991)
2012 (A+): 294 PA, .257/.322/.374, 14 2B, 5 HR, .324 wOBA, 99 wRC+, 30% CS%
(AA): 170 PA, .231/.306/.408, 12 2B, 4 HR, .319 wOBA, 94 wRC+, 38% CS%

Murphy was the Yankees’ second pick in the ’09 draft, and he was considered by many evaluators to be only slightly outside the team’s Top 10 Prospects list entering last year. His strong 63-game, 117 wRC+ showing in Charleston earned him a second-half promotion to Tampa, where a broken foot cut his season short a month later. While Murphy’s defense behind the plate improved during 2012, he did not hit as well and really only received a promotion to Trenton because the Yankees wanted to move Sanchez up to Tampa. Murphy will almost certainly return to Trenton, but with Sanchez breathing down his neck, he will have to give the Yankees a reason to hesitate promoting Sanchez again.

Gary Sanchez
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 20 (born 12/2/1992)
2012 (A-): 289 PA, .297/.353/.517, 19 2B, 13 HR, 11 SB, .390 wOBA, 136 wRC+, 31% CS%
(A+): 185 PA, .279/.330/.436, 10 2B, 5 HR, 4 SB, .351 wOBA, 118 wRC+, 29% CS%

Sanchez is probably the top overall prospect in the Yankees' system. They gave him a $3 million signing bonus when they acquired him as a 17-year-old in 2010 in the days of unrestricted spending overseas. The Dominican kid immediately showed off his abilities with the bat by OPSing 1.016 in Rookie League, earning a promotion toward the end of the season. Sanchez has never had a wRC+ below 113 at any level, and he led all minor league catchers with 18 homers last year. He's been all over most "MLB Top 100 prospects" lists since then. He was finally promoted from Charleston to Tampa halfway through last year after a season and a half there. Sanchez’s defense was subpar in his first couple seasons, but scouts noticed improvements last year--fewer passed balls and better movement with the infamous "tools of ignorance." Scouts have said he’s more likely to stay behind the dish than Jesus Montero. Sanchez will stay in Tampa to begin 2013, but the front-office brass has to be hoping that he’ll master the Florida State League in short order and supplant the less-heralded Murphy in Trenton by midseason.

Bobby Wilson
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 29 (born 4/9/1983)
2012 (MLB): 201 PA, .211/.277/.292, 5 2B, 3 HR, .257 wOBA, 61 wRC+, 25% CS%

The Yankees signed Wilson to a minor-league deal on December 13th, and I immediately discussed his abilities in my post about the current big-league catching mess. The short version is that he’s the only one of these guys who has an outside chance at the gig with the big club. However, it seems more likely he will end up backing up Austin Romine in Triple-A Scranton since he’s essentially the same player as Stewart; there’s no point having two of them. Matt Klaasen’s ratings did consider him the 10th-best defensive catcher in the big leagues though, so he clearly has something to offer from that side of the ball. Unfortunately, his "offense" is horrific and worse than Stewart. Gross.

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