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Yankees 2018 Draft Profile: Catcher organizational depth

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The catching position is easily the weakest point of the Yankees’ organizational depth. Fortunately, it’s not a big deal.

MLB: New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the amateur draft fast approaching, yesterday we took a look at the Yankees’ organizational outfield depth. The team’s outfield talent at the major league level and in the minors is formidable. Where the organization’s depth is less formidable is at catcher.

This is a bit of a hard turn from recent years. For the better part of the past decade, the Yankees have turned up promising young backstops. Not all of them have panned out, of course, but catching prospect after catching prospect has progressed through the system with some notoriety.

The Yankees signed Gary Sanchez in 2009. Jesus Montero emerged seven years ago as a top-ten global prospect. The likes of Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy provided organizational depth for years.

That depth is pretty much gone. All of those players have graduated and either been traded or established their role on the big league team. In a system that consists nearly exclusively of strengths, catching is the only real weakness. Baseball Prospectus didn’t mention any Yankee catching prospects in their report on the system. MLB Pipeline didn’t rank a catcher among their top 30 Yankees prospects.

The most notable name is probably Kyle Higashioka. Yankee fans might remember him for his cup of coffee last year, and how he went 0-for-18 before being sent back down to Triple-A. Higashioka, now hardly a prospect at age-28, is currently hitting a paltry .213/.282/.362 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Higashioka did earn some sort of prospect pedigree back in 2016, his best season. He flashed real pop, hitting .276/.337/.511 with 21 home runs across two levels. That performance was enough to earn his promotion in 2017, but the sheen has mostly worn off since then.

Also worth mentioning is Donny Sands. He reached High-A Tampa last year at age-20, and ran an .837 OPS in a small 17-game sample at the level. Unfortunately, Sands injured his forearm in the spring and hasn’t played at all in 2018.

Outside of Higashioka and Sands, the pickings are even slimmer. The starting catcher at Double-A Trenton is Chace Numata, who owns a .634 OPS at the level. The 20-year-old Jason Lopez is hitting .250/.300/.440 with Single-A Charleston. There really just isn’t much to write home about.

With so little depth at catcher throughout the minor leagues, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to invest a bit of draft capital at the position. That being said, of all the places to be weak at the prospect level, catcher might just be the best one.

In Sanchez, the Yankees may already have the best catcher in baseball. He is the position’s best hitter, he owns one of the best arms, and his solid framing skills outweigh his trouble with blocking. Romine has mostly struggled at the plate in the majors, but he’s turned his best season so far in 2018. The Yankees are totally set for now.

Even if Sanchez is a franchise bedrock, though, it would be nice to improve the organizational depth. Sanchez, despite being on the radar for nearly a decade, is still only 25, though he won’t catch forever. Romine is already 29 and can be a free agent after next season. Sanchez should have a long career at catcher, but eventually the Yankees will need some depth to spell him on occasion.

Fortunately, that time should be far in the future, and for now, the team’s thin organizational catching corps doesn’t profile as a problem. Even the best farm systems, among which the Yankees rank, have weakness. It works out nicely that the Yankees’ prospect weakness matches with a strength at the major league level.