Yankees vs. Blue Jays: Catching Prospects

Comparing what the Yankees and Blue Jays have at each position in the minor leagues, we take a look at the crop of catcher prospects in each system. Which system is deeper? Which prospects have the most power? The highest ceilings? Take a look at this comparison between the two AL East farm systems.

The Two Farm Systems: One would be hard-pressed to find a better collection of quality big league catching prospects than between the Yankees and Blue Jays. Each system has its fair share of superb catch-and-throw guys and offensive-minded backstops who can hit for both power and average, and both farm systems have a catching prospect who ranks atop their respective organizations.

The Yankees boast an elite hitting prospect behind the plate in Jesus Montero. Big-bodied and strong, the Venezuelan native is a true masher offensively. He averaged 18 home runs in his first four full minor league seasons before showing the same kind of power at the big league level this year [four home runs in 18 games for the Yankees] and has never hit below .280 at any stop along the way. And while there are better receivers defensively, he does have what it takes to man the position on an everyday basis.

The Blue Jays counter with a right-handed hitter of their own, Travis D'Arnaud. Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Roy Halladay trade, d'Arnaud isn't quite the offensive force that Montero is but he proved in 2011 that he can be somewhat close, setting career highs in batting average [.311] and home runs 21, and clubbing 33 more doubles [he had 38 in 2009 in the Phillies organization]. While Montero is a bit more of a proven offensive force, d'Arnaud is clearly the better all-around backstop because of the better defensive game.

While fans of both teams can debate between the two headline catching prospects, the Yankees have an edge in offensive catchers below Montero. Gary Sanchez, who just finished his first full season, isn't all that far off from Montero's power. In fact, like Montero did in Charleston a few years ago, Sanchez clubbed as many home runs [17] as Montero did at the same level but in fewer at-bats. And while he has some more work to do to refine his defensive game, most notably his blocking, he possesses the natural athletic ability to make that long-term adjustment.

Right up there with Montero as being big league ready, the Yankees boast another catching prospect in Austin Romine who is arguably the better all-around backstop since catcher is a defensive-first position. A great receiver with a plus throwing arm and adept at leading a staff, Romine hit .286 with six home runs for Double-A Trenton this year. And don't let the career-low home run total fool you, he has more power in the tank.

Giving the Yankees a quality catching prospect at all four long-season league levels is J.R. Murphy, perhaps the biggest 'sleeper' prospect between the two farm systems. A third baseman in high school, the 2009 second round pick hit .287 with 29 doubles and seven home runs between the two A-ball levels, and struck out just 47 times in 341 at-bats. His arm strength also improved a full grade over the past year and his defensive game is rounding into form, so much so that he is becoming a little d'Arnaud-like in his progress.

While the Blue Jays don't exactly match the power potential catching-wise among their backstop, they do have two very good catching prospects of their own at the A-ball levels, highlighted by right-handed hitting A.J. Jimenez. Jimenez is arguably the best catch-and-throw guy between the two farm systems. A great receiver, extremely adept at blocking balls, and boasting an excellent combination of quick release and accurate throws, he can do it all defensively. On the offensive side he is a guy who consistently puts the ball in play. He hit .303 in high-A Dunedin this year after hitting .299 a year ago, and his 29 doubles in the Florida State League suggests he could eventually hit for double-digit home run power in the big leagues someday.

The offensive stats help disguise the fact the Yankees have their own defensive stalwart behind the plate in the form of Kyle Higashioka. Like Jimenez for the Blue Jays, 'Higgy' could play defensively in the big leagues right now. Not only is he superb at working with his pitchers, he is an excellent receiver, adept at blocking balls, and he too has a fantastic combination of quick release and accurate throws. And while his stats don't show it, he has some hidden offensive potential that could blossom down the road.

At low-A Lansing this year the Blue Jays had Carlos Perez as their main catcher. More of an offensive catcher than his 2011 numbers would suggest [.256, three home runs], the Venezuelan native struggled in his first full season as a catcher. He is a solid backstop in the J.R. Murphy mold and most scouts believe he has a lot more offensive potential yet to come.

The Blue Jays have a quality catching prospect at the lower levels too. Venezuelan native Santiago Nessy physically has the look of Jesus Montero as a big-bodied catcher who is better on the offensive side than on the defensive side in the early going. He doesn't have quite that kind of offensive ceiling, however. He hit .306 with three home runs for the GCL Blue Jays in his first season in the United States this year and made some marked improvements defensively. He'll be one to watch in the coming years.

What really tips the depth of quality catching prospects in the Yankees favor though is the combination of Greg Bird and Isaias Tejeda. Tejeda, a Dominican native, was originally a third baseman who is only now learning the ropes behind the plate. But offensively, he has a lot of talent. He hit .331 with six home runs and posted a .971 OPS for the Gulf Coast League Yankees this year, and his bat will afford him a lot of time to allow his defensive game to catch up.

Greg Bird, the Yankees' 5th round pick out of high school this year, signed for the highest bonus. He played in just four games for the GCL Yankees after signing too late to see any significant playing time but scouts already love his left-handed swing and long-term power potential. In fact, the biggest question mark was whether or not he could remain at catcher and he is starting to make some impressive strides defensively already. He'll be one to watch in the coming years for the Yankees.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: The combination of Travis d'Arnaud, Yan Gomes, and Santiago Nessy gives the Blue Jays a trio of catchers who are theoretically safe bets to hit for double-digit home run totals if they got enough playing time, but the system as a whole can't compare power-wise to the cumulative power output of Montero, Sanchez, Bird, Romine, Murphy, etc, etc. Advantage: Yankees

Hitting For Average: While the Yankees have a clear edge in the power department here, it's not that huge of an advantage hitting for average. Given that both Gary Sanchez and Carlos Perez have a lot more average potential than they showed this year, that makes it a wash at the long-season league levels. The Yankees get an advantage at the lower levels, however, with Bird and Tejeda. Advantage: Yankees

Defense: This is where the two systems are pretty much equal. The Blue Jays have very good backstops in d'Arnaud and Jimenez, and the Yankees counter with Romine and Higashioka. Should J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez keep improving for the Yankees as expected, and should Carlos Perez do the same for the Blue Jays, the Yankees could have a slight edge long-term but for now it's pretty even. Advantage: Even.

Speed: Catchers by trade are not known for their speed so this category falls into the 'who cares' realm, but both systems have a couple of agile catchers who could swipe some bags. Advantage: Even.

Overall Potential: Even if Jesus Montero slides into the designated hitter's role short-term, he is still a catcher by trade. Throw in the incredibly high ceilings of Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird for the Yankees, as well as the safe big league projections of Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy, the Blue Jays don't have nearly the same depth as the Yankees at the catching position right now.

Highest Ceilings: Jesus Montero (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays), Greg Bird (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees)

Best Power: Jesus Montero (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Greg Bird (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays), Austin Romine (Yankees)

Best Average: Jesus Montero (Yankees), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays), Greg Bird (Yankees), A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays)

Best Defense: A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays), Kyle Higashioka (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays), J.R. Murphy (Yankees)

Best Speed: J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays), Carlos Perez (Blue Jays), Isaias Tejeda (Yankees).

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\r\n \r\n\r\nThe Two Farm Systems: One would be hard-pressed to find a better collection of quality big league catching prospects than between the Yankees and Blue Jays. Each system has its fair share of superb catch-and-throw guys and offensive-minded backstops who can hit for both power and average, and both farm systems have a catching prospect who ranks atop their respective organizations.
\r\n
\r\nThe Yankees boast an elite hitting prospect behind the plate in Jesus Montero. Big-bodied and strong, the Venezuelan native is a true masher offensively. He averaged 18 home runs in his first four full minor league seasons before showing the same kind of power at the big league level this year [four home runs in 18 games for the Yankees] and has never hit below .280 at any stop along the way. And while there are better receivers defensively, he does have what it takes to man the position on an everyday basis.
\r\n
\r\nThe Blue Jays counter with a right-handed hitter of their own, Travis D'Arnaud. Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Roy Halladay trade, d'Arnaud isn't quite the offensive force that Montero is but he proved in 2011 that he can be somewhat close, setting career highs in batting average [.311] and home runs 21, and clubbing 33 more doubles [he had 38 in 2009 in the Phillies organization]. While Montero is a bit more of a proven offensive force, d'Arnaud is clearly the better all-around backstop because of the better defensive game.
\r\n
\r\nWhile fans of both teams can debate between the two headline catching prospects, the Yankees have an edge in offensive catchers below Montero. Gary Sanchez, who just finished his first full season, isn't all that far off from Montero's power. In fact, like Montero did in Charleston a few years ago, Sanchez clubbed as many home runs [17] as Montero did at the same level but in fewer at-bats. And while he has some more work to do to refine his defensive game, most notably his blocking, he possesses the natural athletic ability to make that long-term adjustment.
\r\n
\r\nRight up there with Montero as being big league ready, the Yankees boast another catching prospect in Austin Romine who is arguably the better all-around backstop since catcher is a defensive-first position. A great receiver with a plus throwing arm and adept at leading a staff, Romine hit .286 with six home runs for Double-A Trenton this year. And don't let the career-low home run total fool you, he has more power in the tank.
\r\n
\r\nGiving the Yankees a quality catching prospect at all four long-season league levels is J.R. Murphy, perhaps the biggest 'sleeper' prospect between the two farm systems. A third baseman in high school, the 2009 second round pick hit .287 with 29 doubles and seven home runs between the two A-ball levels, and struck out just 47 times in 341 at-bats. His arm strength also improved a full grade over the past year and his defensive game is rounding into form, so much so that he is becoming a little d'Arnaud-like in his progress.
\r\n
\r\nWhile the Blue Jays don't exactly match the power potential catching-wise among their backstop, they do have two very good catching prospects of their own at the A-ball levels, highlighted by right-handed hitting A.J. Jimenez. Jimenez is arguably the best catch-and-throw guy between the two farm systems. A great receiver, extremely adept at blocking balls, and boasting an excellent combination of quick release and accurate throws, he can do it all defensively. On the offensive side he is a guy who consistently puts the ball in play. He hit .303 in high-A Dunedin this year after hitting .299 a year ago, and his 29 doubles in the Florida State League suggests he could eventually hit for double-digit home run power in the big leagues someday.
\r\n
\r\nThe offensive stats help disguise the fact the Yankees have their own defensive stalwart behind the plate in the form of Kyle Higashioka. Like Jimenez for the Blue Jays, 'Higgy' could play defensively in the big leagues right now. Not only is he superb at working with his pitchers, he is an excellent receiver, adept at blocking balls, and he too has a fantastic combination of quick release and accurate throws. And while his stats don't show it, he has some hidden offensive potential that could blossom down the road.
\r\n
\r\nAt low-A Lansing this year the Blue Jays had Carlos Perez as their main catcher. More of an offensive catcher than his 2011 numbers would suggest [.256, three home runs], the Venezuelan native struggled in his first full season as a catcher. He is a solid backstop in the J.R. Murphy mold and most scouts believe he has a lot more offensive potential yet to come.
\r\n
\r\nThe Blue Jays have a quality catching prospect at the lower levels too. Venezuelan native Santiago Nessy physically has the look of Jesus Montero as a big-bodied catcher who is better on the offensive side than on the defensive side in the early going. He doesn't have quite that kind of offensive ceiling, however. He hit .306 with three home runs for the GCL Blue Jays in his first season in the United States this year and made some marked improvements defensively. He'll be one to watch in the coming years.
\r\n
\r\nWhat really tips the depth of quality catching prospects in the Yankees favor though is the combination of Greg Bird and Isaias Tejeda. Tejeda, a Dominican native, was originally a third baseman who is only now learning the ropes behind the plate. But offensively, he has a lot of talent. He hit .331 with six home runs and posted a .971 OPS for the Gulf Coast League Yankees this year, and his bat will afford him a lot of time to allow his defensive game to catch up.
\r\n
\r\nGreg Bird, the Yankees' 5th round pick out of high school this year, signed for the highest bonus. He played in just four games for the GCL Yankees after signing too late to see any significant playing time but scouts already love his left-handed swing and long-term power potential. In fact, the biggest question mark was whether or not he could remain at catcher and he is starting to make some impressive strides defensively already. He'll be one to watch in the coming years for the Yankees.
\r\n
\r\nHow Do They Compare In...
\r\n
\r\nPower: The combination of Travis d'Arnaud, Yan Gomes, and Santiago Nessy gives the Blue Jays a trio of catchers who are theoretically safe bets to hit for double-digit home run totals if they got enough playing time, but the system as a whole can't compare power-wise to the cumulative power output of Montero, Sanchez, Bird, Romine, Murphy, etc, etc. Advantage: Yankees
\r\n
\r\nHitting For Average: While the Yankees have a clear edge in the power department here, it's not that huge of an advantage hitting for average. Given that both Gary Sanchez and Carlos Perez have a lot more average potential than they showed this year, that makes it a wash at the long-season league levels. The Yankees get an advantage at the lower levels, however, with Bird and Tejeda. Advantage: Yankees
\r\n
\r\nDefense: This is where the two systems are pretty much equal. The Blue Jays have very good backstops in d'Arnaud and Jimenez, and the Yankees counter with Romine and Higashioka. Should J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez keep improving for the Yankees as expected, and should Carlos Perez do the same for the Blue Jays, the Yankees could have a slight edge long-term but for now it's pretty even. Advantage: Even.
\r\n
\r\nSpeed: Catchers by trade are not known for their speed so this category falls into the 'who cares' realm, but both systems have a couple of agile catchers who could swipe some bags. Advantage: Even.
\r\n
\r\nOverall Potential: Even if Jesus Montero slides into the designated hitter's role short-term, he is still a catcher by trade. Throw in the incredibly high ceilings of Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird for the Yankees, as well as the safe big league projections of Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy, the Blue Jays don't have nearly the same depth as the Yankees at the catching position right now.
\r\n
\r\nHighest Ceilings: Jesus Montero (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays), Greg Bird (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees)
\r\n
\r\nBest Power: Jesus Montero (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Greg Bird (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays), Austin Romine (Yankees)
\r\n
\r\nBest Average: Jesus Montero (Yankees), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays), Greg Bird (Yankees), A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays)
\r\n
\r\nBest Defense: A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays), Kyle Higashioka (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays), J.R. Murphy (Yankees)
\r\n
\r\nBest Speed: J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays), Carlos Perez (Blue Jays), Isaias Tejeda (Yankees).
\r\n
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