One of the Yankees' biggest strengths, not just at the big league level, but throughout the minor leagues, is their catching depth. Up and down the entire organization, the Yankees sport catchers with plenty of upside, so much so that you can say it's the team's biggest strength. Here is a look at those who headline the Yankees' catching depth, starting from the majors and down to the short-season leagues:
Brian McCann: Signed to a 5-year, $85 million deal with an option for a sixth year, McCann becomes quite possibly the best catcher in the American League. The now 30-year-old McCann hit .256/.336/.461 (122 wRC+) last season while playing his home games at pitcher-friendly Turner Field. He should see his power numbers (20 home runs, .205 ISO) spike up a bit with the move to Yankee Stadium. New York also signed McCann for his defense; he has shown a strong ability to frame and block pitches over the years and pitchers are said to like throwing to him.
Francisco Cervelli: Despite being maligned by at least a fraction of the fanbase, Cervelli has the tools to be a good backup catcher. Since last spring, Cervelli has shown better throwing mechanics and his blocking/framing numbers have been solid as well. Although he doesn't have much power (career .096 ISO), he does have a knack for reaching base at a good rate (career .343 OBP), while hitting left-handers as well (career 120 wRC+). If he manages to stay healthy, the Yankees could have themselves one of the best backup catchers in the business.
John Ryan Murphy: There were several Yankee prospects last year who had down years, but John Ryan Murphy certainly wasn't one of them. Splitting time between Double and Triple-A, Murphy hit a very solid .269/.347/.426 (116 wRC+) while continuing to make big strides at the catching position. His strong year, along with his overall success in the minor leagues prior to 2013, earned him the number two spot in PSA's prospect rankings. Murphy has also caught attention from the national writers, namely Keith Law, who thinks Murphy will be an everyday catcher for someone, even if that someone isn't the Yankees. Although he is blocked from the big leagues for now, Murphy is set to get the regular catching load at Scranton beginning next month.
Austin Romine: Romine went through plenty of growing pains last season, as the then 24-year-old had to adjust to a backup catcher's role with the big club while Chris Stewart inexplicably received more than his fair share of at-bats. Overall, Romine hit just .208/.255/.296 (48 wRC+) which would have been much worse had he not hit .353/.433/.529 through a handful of games during the middle of last summer. As far as I know, Romine still has minor league options remaining, so he should be set to (barring a trade) back up Murphy at Triple-A.
Gary Sanchez: Although he slipped a little bit across national prospect rankings, Sanchez's 2013 was still a productive one. He finally got promoted to Double-A late in the year, and he certainly held his own, hitting .250/.364/.380 in nearly two dozen games. His defense has received mixed reviews, however, so he'll need to prove this season that he has made strides behind the plate. It feels like he's been around forever, but Sanchez turned only 21 years of age in December so time is certainly on his side, even if there are catchers ahead of him in the pecking order.
Peter O`Brien: A product of the University of Miami, O`Brien has proven he can hit the ball a long, long way, showing so thus far in camp (at least during batting practice). Since joining the organization, he has shown impressive power numbers, namely 32 home runs and a .232 ISO in just over 170 games. After raking to a 1.012 OPS in Charleston last season, O'Brien more than held his own in Tampa, sporting a 122 wRC+ with 11 dingers and a .221 ISO in 66 games.
O`Brien's defense, however, is a question mark. After struggling behind the plate, he saw some time at third base, where he experienced growing pains (18 errors in 91 games). So far this spring, the Yankees have used O'Brien exclusively at catcher (and DH), and with Sanchez set to be Trenton's catcher, I'd have to think O`Brien would stay at Tampa to improve his catching skills. If not, O'Brien could be sent to Trenton anyways, where he could see time at third, and, perhaps, even some right field if Tyler Austin is sent to Triple-A Scranton.
Luis Torrens: The Yankees' top international signing from 2012 made his mark last season by batting .240 with a strong .348 OBP in his stateside debut. He didn't hit for much power at all, however (one home run, .052 ISO), but this is coming from someone who was (and still is) just 17 years of age and the youngest player in the league; he literally did not have a single plate appearance against a pitcher who was younger than him. Most 17-year-olds are either in their junior or senior year of high school, let alone playing under the hot, Florida sun in the Yankees' minor league system. Torrens also transitioned from third base to catcher, and is said to have made strides during his first season behind the dish. He's a long ways away from the majors, obviously, but there is plenty of upside already with Torrens.
There are more names in the Yankees' system at catcher who are intriguing, but these are the seven biggest names and make the catching depth what it is: One perennial All-Star at the big league level in the middle of his prime; a quality backup catcher with solid on-base skills and improving defense; a good prospect who is still pretty young and continues to make improvements with his bat and his glove; a once top prospect but has seen his stock fall, though has the tools to be a solid backup at the big league level; the organization's top prospect who has MVP potential at the big league level; an absolute masher but has plenty of room to improve behind the plate; and a very young, intriguing teenager who shows strong on-base skills while making improvements already behind the plate during his first season.
Because of their overall depth, teams have scouted the Yankees' catchers that are in camp, perhaps in effort to make a trade down the road. The Yankees have even showcased their catchers, in a way, by using a second catcher to DH during Grapefruit League action. Thanks to their catching depth, writers from this very site made trade proposals involving Yankee catchers in exchange for another team's infielder (Murphy for Didi Gregorius). Even if the Yankees have their fair share of organizational warts, it is pretty exciting to see how much talent they have at catcher up and down the entire franchise, and they are certainly in the driver's seat with how they use said depth.