High school catchers taken in the first round of the MLB Draft do not have a long track record of recent success. The last high-school catcher selected in the first round to accrue 10 career WAR was the Twins’ Joe Mauer — a No. 1 overall pick in 2001.
When the Yankees selected Anthony Seigler with the 23rd pick in the 2018 draft, they were hoping that he could overcome the performances of his highly-selected high school catching brethren. Heading into this season though, Seigler had struggled to gain traction on his professional career but now with two months of strong play in the books, it looks like Seigler has turned a corner and has a chance to deliver on the potential that the Yankees saw in him on draft day.
Even with Gary Sánchez and Austin Romine in house, the Yankees’ system behind them was somewhat barren of catching prospects heading into the 2018 draft. Kyle Higashioka was a decent receiver, but when he’s your system’s next best hope, then there’s work to do. With an eye towards the future the Yankees used their two first picks in 2018 on catchers, taking Seigler and junior college catcher Josh Breaux in the second round.
After a 24-game professional debut in 2018, Seigler was sent to Low-A Charleston for the start of the following campaign, when he was slated to catch games for some of the best pitching prospects in the Yankees system. That roll call of names included Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Matt Sauer, Roansy Contreras, Jhony Brito, and Ron Marinaccio.
It was not to be, as Seigler battled an injury during spring training and only made his season debut on June 10th. His season would last just 30 games; a fractured kneecap ended his year in late July. While an injury of that nature is out of the player’s control, it was slightly concerning that Seigler struggled to produce much in his 120 plate appearances that year, posting just a .534 OPS.
After losing the 2020 season along with the rest of the minor leagues, Seigler again got a late start the next year, making his 2021 debut on June 1st at High-A Hudson Valley. He would only play 41 games before heading back to the injured list and finishing the season there once again.
Frequently ranked as one of the Yankees’ top 30 prospects since being drafted, Seigler started the 2022 season largely off the prospect radar. That status seemed confirmed when he started the campaign back at the Low-A level in Tampa, while Austin Wells worked as the primary catcher in High-A. Even at Low-A, Seigler found himself splitting time with well-regarded prospect Antonio Gomez to start the season.
However, Seigler came out strong with Low-A Tampa and quickly earned a majority of the reps behind the plate and a promotion to High-A Hudson Valley. Between the two levels, he is hitting .270/.450/.476, which is good for a 166 wRC+.
Incredibly, Seigler has walked over 24 percent of the time at both the Low-A and High-A levels. He has dramatically lowered his groundball rate this season by around 18 percent. Those balls that were on the ground in the past are now largely line drives, which he is hitting on almost 35 percent of his balls in play this year.
Seigler’s emergence this season came at a time when Yankees fans were feeling as good about the catching position as they have in a while. Wells acquitted himself nicely in the Arizona Fall League and was looking much better defensively behind the plate to start the 2022 season (prior to going down with an injury in mid-May). Josh Breaux also was starting to lose the label of raw catching prospect and earning some good reviews for his work behind the plate in Double-A.
The Yankees will have some decisions to make in the near future. Breaux and Seigler will both be Rule-5 eligible at the end of the season, and if they finish well, they could be on a rebuilding team’s radar. During the past few winters, the Yankees have only carried two catchers for much of the time as they managed their 40-man roster. Many teams carry a third or fourth catcher, but with Wells potentially inching closer to the majors by the end of this season, how the Yankees choose to manage the position moving forward is an interesting question.
More likely, Seigler has positioned either himself or Breaux to be traded, possibly as soon as the 2022 trade deadline. Seigler has long held the reputation of being the better all-around catcher, while Breaux’s offense was well ahead. That is not necessarily the case anymore, as Seigler is putting together a solid offensive season, especially in the on-base department. His strong display of tools likely has made him the more desirable trade chip., and he’s a year and a half younger, too. Much like Clay Holmes trade chips Diego Castillo and Hoy Park in 2021, Seigler has emerged from off the radar at the start of the season to establish — or more accurately re-establish — himself as a legitimate prospect early this season.
Anthony Seigler’s excellent start to 2022 has been a bright spot in the Yankees system. He has emerged and shown all the potential that made him the team’s first round pick in 2018. His rapid improvement has helped deepen a position that the team was already well-stocked across most of their minor league clubs. If Seigler can continue his solid play, he will either warrant a 40-man roster spot, or possibly be traded by the end of the season, but either scenario will demonstrate how much his value has increased since he first stepped on the field this year.