A look around the Yankees farm system shows a surprising lack of talent at the catching position. The organization is often credited for being particularly skilled at developing backstops, however, the system seems to lack upside below Triple-A. In preparation for the 2017 MLB Draft, let’s take a look at the catchers in the organization, and what the Yankees might do come draft day.
The Yankees have one of the best major league catchers in Gary Sanchez. After what felt like years of potential being wasted away, Sanchez finally put it all together in 2016 when he unleashed a historic run that almost netted him MVP honors. Things have been shaky for Gary Sanchez in 2017, but the organization felt strong enough about him to trade Brian McCann away. The team may have their long-term catcher in Gary Sanchez, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be watching the prospect market in the run up to the draft.
They have major league talent in Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka, who could each probably see more playing time in another organization. As it stands now, the Yankees will keep both around in order to maintain a strong level of depth for the foreseeable future. Both are still relatively cost controlled, so they won’t be going away any time soon.
The Yankees might have had even more depth than they have now if not for the loss of John Ryan Murphy and Luis Torrens. Brian Cashman decided to trade Murphy to the Twins for Aaron Hicks, which might end up working out for the Yankees. Torrens was taken in the Rule 5 Draft this winter and has stuck with the Padres so far this year. The young backstop has been injured in recent years, but there’s no denying his talent, so losing him for nothing isn’t exactly great.
Beyond Sanchez, Romine, and Higashioka, the system becomes pretty barren very quickly. They lacked enough depth that they had to go out and acquire Eddy Rodriguez, Wilkin Castillo, Francisco Diaz, Jorge Saez, and Sharif Othman just to fill out the position in Triple-A, Double-A, and High-A Tampa. None of these guys will be anything other than organizational players.
The Yankees already have Audie Afenir and Wes Wilson as their internally developed org guys. They also had Radley Haddad, but they recently gave him a job as their major league bullpen catcher. That leaves the team with Donny Sands, the former third baseman they successfully converted to catcher. Drafted out of high school in 2015, the 21-year-old is still looking to develop power and consistency in Low-A Charleston. That’s the high water mark for catchers in the lower levels of this system.
Last year, the organization signed exactly one catcher during the MLB Draft, and now you see the state the system is in. Gary Sanchez is certainly going to be around here for awhile, and hopefully even longer than that. However, the Yankees do have to think about who is going to come in after the Romines and Higashiokas move on. Catching isn’t a huge need this year, but it would be nice to see them make it a small priority next month.