Despite their lack of catching talent at the major league level, the Yankees have a long line of prospects behind the plate that extends all the way from Single-A to Triple-A. That's a great thing to have in any organization, but it also creates a "problem." By problem I mean what a great problem to have, but at the same time it does cause some difficulties. Having a legitimate prospect who is performing well at every level will make promotions problematic, so what can they do?
The so-called problem begins in Low-A Charleston with catcher Peter O'Brien. The 2012 2nd round draft pick has put up a .395/.569/.964 batting line with 5 home runs in only his first full year of professional baseball. His bat is clearly ready for the next level, but his glove might not be, having already allowed 15 passed balls on the season. He's already 22 years old, so he needs to start moving up the ladder soon. Unfortunately for him, the only place to go is to High-A Tampa and Gary Sanchez is already currently there.
Sanchez is hitting .273/.345/.477 with 8 home runs for the Tampa Yankees, and even though he's only 20 years old, it looks like he could be ready for a promotion. He's fixed a lot of problems with his defense now that he's only allowed four passed balls so far and has thrown out 39% of runners (10% higher than what he did at the same level last season). The Yankees don't need to call him up to Double-A immediately, but if if they wanted to later on they couldn't because of JR Murphy.
The Trenton Thunder's starting catcher, JR Murphy, is currently hitting .301/.399/.466 with four home runs and is throwing out 43% of all base runners. Sadly, despite that impressive percentage, he has a reputation for being a below average catcher. There was a time when the Yankees thought he could work as a third baseman, but that plan has been scrapped and now he's looking like a solid offensive catcher. The 22-year-old could move up a level to Triple-A and possibly set himself up for a September call up, but what about Austin Romine?
Triple-A Scranton's current starting catcher, Bobby Wilson, isn't going to stop any prospect from making it up the system, but Romine might. Right now he's with the Yankees, but he's been unimpressive with the bat, and when Francisco Cervelli returns he will probably find himself back down in Triple-A. If the organization still wants him playing every day, then a prospect can't be called up to simply sit on the bench. Romine might not project to be much of a hitter, but he's still somewhat of a prospect at 24 years old.
The only answer is to do nothing, which is not really much of an answer. Everyone will have to sit tight and wait their turn until a space clears up. O'Brien and Murphy can continue to work on their defense and there's no rush with Gary Sanchez because he is still so young. But what about next season?
The same players are going to be in the same situation, so eventually something will have to give. They can't move O'Brien to first base because Greg Bird, an ex-catcher himself, plays there and he's a legitimate prospect too. Gary Sanchez is the organization's top prospect and real longterm hope at the position and Murphy may not hit enough to be a regular position player. The Yankees will still have Austin Romine, Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli in 2014 and even longer after that. The term "logjam" comes to mind, but what can they do?
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