The Yankees had a solid catching tandem in 2015 between Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy, ultimately hitting .244/.322/.429 as a unit, and ranking seventh with a 3.6 WAR against all other teams. That seemed to be one position that wasn't going to change in 2016, and yet Brian Cashman traded Murphy for Aaron Hicks and now they have to decide who their next backup catcher will be. According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Yankees might already know who they want on the major league roster as the organization has high praise for catching prospect Gary Sanchez:
"He improved in every category,'' GM Brian Cashman said of Sanchez, who was given $3 million to sign as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. "The bat was always there, now his defense has come a long way, blocking balls, calling a game and throwing. He always had a 70 [on the 20-80 scouting scale] arm. He has grown up before our eyes.''
Sanchez has always been a big prospect with a lot of potential, but he hasn't put it all together until this season. He's always hit well for a catcher, but a .295/.349/.500 batting line after a midseason call-up to Triple-A Scranton was exactly what the Yankees have been waiting to see from him. It got people talking and it earned him a major league call-up. According to King, many believe his increased maturity level–he got married and had a kid–has helped him focus his attention on his game. Cashman continued, "he always had the ability. Now he has the desire."
It seems obvious that he would be the favorite for the position. His recent success clearly made Murphy expendable with Sanchez ready for the next level and Austin Romine will be his only competition. Then again, just a few weeks ago the Yankees tried to sign veteran backstop Tyler Flowers on a minor league deal. That could mean a few things: Maybe they aren't 100% confident in Sanchez or maybe they plan to designate for assignment Romine again and needed a minor league catcher in the event they lost him to waivers. Either way, the Yankees don't simply hand prospects a job, he'll have to earn it, so expect a "competition" this spring. I say "competition" because even though they like to make young players compete for positions, the organization usually already knows who they want to win. If they're already praising Sanchez this much, it must mean that he's in the lead and they're ready to role with his glove.
As the article mentions, the Yankees are a team that likes to run with a young backup catcher over a veteran, like most clubs do. Sanchez still has a ways to go when it comes to defense, but with Joe Girardi, Tony Pena, and Brian McCann all in the same dugout, the rookie will probably have a better chance to learn on the major league bench than anywhere else.