Heading into the 2018 season, the Yankees’ farm system had a glaring weakness at the catcher position. That summer it became clear that the Yankees had a plan to address this lack of depth in their minor-league system. Using both the draft and international free agency, the Yankees brought in three talented young catchers who are now all generally listed among the top-30 Yankees prospects.
Coming in as the Yankees’ top draft pick in 2018, and 23rd over all, Anthony Seigler’s name is well known among fans. Despite the hype, the early part of his Yankees career has been slowed by injuries. In his 2018 professional debut, Seigler performed very well in the Gulf Coast League, but he struggled offensively after being promoted to Rookie-Advanced Pulaski. Still, with only 24 games of action, scouts loved his ability behind the plate and potential with the bat.
The start of his 2019 season was delayed as he battled a leg injury coming out of spring training. Making his debut in early June, Seigler was behind the plate working with many of the best arms in the Yankees’ system as he caught top prospects Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Alexander Vizcaino, and Roansy Contreras. His athleticism behind the plate allowed him to fluently block pitches and perform defensively.
Seigler’s bat never got going, though, as he hit a paltry .175/.328/.206 going up against the pitching of the Class-A South-Atlantic League. Reviews of his season indicated that he still had solid strike zone discipline at the plate, but questions are now out there about what his ceiling is on the offensive side of the ball.
The reviews of 2019 are all based on a very small sample size, as a fractured kneecap ended Seigler’s season after just 30 games. He will likely return to Class-A Charleston again in 2020, and look to regain his status as one of the Yankees’ elite prospects.
With their second-round pick in the 2018 draft, the Yankees selected Josh Breaux, a strong-armed catcher out of McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. Despite hitting 100 mph on the radar gun while working as a short reliever in college, Breaux’s ability with a bat and desire to be a catcher filled the need the Yankees were looking for.
Much like Seigler, Breaux battled injuries during the 2019 campaign. An arm injury early in the season sidelined him, as he found himself struggling to just get the ball back to the pitcher. Breaux is still very raw defensively and ended up as the designated hitter in a majority of the games he played this season.
What Breaux did excel at this season was hitting for power. He hit 13 home runs and slugged .518 over 51 games. His plate discipline also seemed to improve as the season went on, as he recorded 11 of his 15 walks after August 12th. Whiffing is still the downside of Breaux’s game, as he struck out 27.3% of the time on the season, but that is not an unmanageable number for a power-hitting prospect.
Breaux could start the season with either High-A Tampa, or back with Class-A Charleston. After only playing 22 games behind the plate last season while coming back from injury, the Yankees will be looking to see his progress behind the plate this coming year.
The third major prospect that the Yankees brought into the system in the summer of 2018 was Antonio Gomez. He was signed out of Venezuela on July 2nd for $600,000, and was considered one of the top-15 international free agents that signing period.
Known for his excellent defense, including a cannon of an arm and a quick pop time, Gomez threw out 50% of the runner who attempted to steal against him in his first season as a professional. In addition, by the time of his signing, Gomez was already fluent in English—a skill that can help him manage a pitching staff as he moves through the Yankees’ system.
Limited this past season to only 15 games due to a triceps injury, Gomez was able to put together a solid offensive campaign in the Gulf Coast League, with a 106 wRC+ and just a 13.7% strikeout rate. Gomez is likely headed to the Rookie-Advanced Pulaski Yankees to start the 2020 season, but if the organization sees enough progress it is possible that he could end up with Short-Season A Staten Island during the year.
The Yankees used valuable draft picks, and a significant amount of international bonus money, in 2018 in an attempt to build depth at the catching position within the organization. While injuries have slowed the progress of their top three catching acquisitions from that season, all have shown glimpses of what their ceilings can be in the future. This coming season, these players will look to solidify their place in the system and show that they are part of the Yankees’ long-term plans.