Yankees vs. Red Sox: Catching Prospects

Comparing what the Yankees and Red Sox 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: Both organizations have long-term potential difference makers at the catcher's spot among their respective prospects right now but the Yankees have a few more lottery tickets at the position.

Boston's top two catching prospects entering the season were Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, and that remains the case today. Swihart, Boston's first round pick out of high school in 20011, took the expected step forward in his development this year offensively, hitting a solid .298 with 29 doubles for high-A Salem. The switch-hitter continues to show very good plate discipline and he has long-term average to above average power potential. Defensively there's still a ton of room to get better but his progress has been steady behind the plate thus far.

Vazquez on the other hand is so good defensively already that Boston was able to pass on signing Jarrod Saltalamacchi to a long-term deal. He is above average defensively in every way; blocking, receiving, working with his pitchers, catch-and-throw, etc. Offensively, while the power hasn't just yet materialized [he hit five home runs in 2013 for Double-A Portland], the plate discipline continues to get better and better [he walked more times than he struck out] and he hit .289 this year. He might not be a difference-maker offensively but he can handle the bat enough to be an everyday big league catcher down the road.

Boston added some much needed depth to the position this year with the third round selection of Jon Denney out of high school in Oklahoma. He just turned 19 years old this offseason and he enters the professional ranks with long-term above average to potentially plus power, above average hitting potential, and above average to plus arm strength. As is the case with all teenage catching prospects, he has some work to do defensively but he shows the requisite athleticism to make the long-term adjustments behind the plate to not only stick at the position but potentially be average or better.

Outside of those three, however, the Red Sox don't have much in the way of potential impact catching prospects. Dan Butler, known for his great overall defensive game, is coming off of a career-high 14 home runs season with Triple-A Pawtucket this year but he's already 27 years old and projects best as a backup catcher. And Jordan Weems, Boston's third round pick out of high school in 2011, hit just .204 after repeating the low-A level this year and he' still seeking his first professional home run.

The Yankees on the other hand have a number of solid big league catching prospects up and down their minor league system despite Austin Romine losing his rookie status this year by four at-bats. J.R. Murphy, New York's second round pick back in 2009, hit a combined .269 with a career-high 12 home runs between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, and he continues to show great plate discipline. The 22-year old is already an above average defensive catcher and he has a lot more left in the tank offensively.

Gary Sanchez, New York's top International free agent signing back in 2009, had a disappointing 2013 campaign in many respects, hitting just a combined .253 between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton and clubbing a career-low 15 home runs in his tenure in the long-season leagues. Still, while the numbers were disappointing, it speaks volumes to his offensive potential and he just turned 21 years old this month. Defensively, he's above average in nearly every way, especially throwing out runners where he's borderline plus. A bit more commitment to his physical conditioning could be the final piece in his development puzzle towards becoming an impact big league catcher on both sides of the ball someday.

The Yankees also have a hot-shot catching prospect at the lower minor league levels too in the form of right-handed hitting Luis Torrens. Last year's top International free agent signing skipped the Dominican Summer League entirely and hit a respectable .241 for the Gulf Coast League Yankees as the youngest player in the league. His plate discipline is superb, he has long-term average to above average power potential, and defensively his progress thus far has been amazing -- he's already an above average defender one short year into his development and many scouts believe the 17-year old could eventually be the best of the Yankee catching lot down the road.

The biggest wild card catching-wise in either organization is Peter O'Brien, the Yankees' second round pick in 2012 out of the University of Miami. Blessed with arguably the best power potential of any player at any position in either organization, he slugged a combined 65 extra-base hits between low-A Charleston and high-A Tampa in his first full season this year. He does strike out a bit too much as most sluggers tend to do, and while he has plus-plus arm strength and some agility for a bigger guy, there are defensive inconsistencies that need to be ironed out. In fact, he began playing some third base this year to help create some defensive versatility. Don't let that position switch ignore the fact that defensively he's not as bad as advertised by some pundits -- he is at least as good defensively as Atlanta's Evan Gattis and the bat can make up for some defensive shortcomings.

While Murphy, Sanchez, Torrens, and O'Brien are clearly the best long-term catching options for the Yankees right now, they do have a number of 'sleeper' prospects at the position, including Alvaro Noriega [19], Eduardo De Oleo [20], and Isaias Tejeda [22], all of whom have solid enough offensive ceilings that they are more than mere afterthoughts right now. While longshots at best at this point, it would also be unwise to completely write off the defensive prowess of both Francisco Arcia and Kyle Higashioka as potential backup type catchers someday -- both had injuries in 2013 that limited their playing time.


How Do They Compare In...

Power: This is about as close to a 'no contest' as it gets. While Swihart and Denney project to have average to above average power at minimum down the road, and Vazquez has a bit more power than his five home runs this year show, the fact is the trio of Sanchez, O'Brien, and Murphy have already started tapping their power and Torrens will hit home runs down the road too. Advantage: Yankees

Hitting For Average: While the Yankees might have a shade more depth here in terms of sheer number of prospects, this is the one category where the Red Sox make it a race. Swihart and Vazquez are already solid hitters, and Denney should be in time. It's just enough to combat the hitting abilities of Murphy, Sanchez, and Torrens right now. Should Peter O'Brien cut down on the strikeouts though he could tip this in the Yankee favor someday. Advantage: Even

Defense: A year ago this one was a wash because Vazquez and Butler were already above average defenders. And while Swihart made some steady progress and Denney's inclusion with his long-term defensive potential gives Boston a boost, the fact is the Yankee catching prospects, particularly Murphy, Sanchez, and Torrens, all made significant strides defensively, enough to give the Yankees a slight edge here. Advantage: Yankees.

Speed: Perhaps Murphy and Torrens, both former third baseman, give the Yankees a slight edge in the running game, but there is no real discernible difference between the two organizations in this department. Advantage: Even.

Overall Potential: The forward progress of Swihart in 2013 and the selection of Denney gives Boston a bit more at the position than they had a year ago but it still doesn't quite compare with what the Yankees have to offer behind the plate both offensively and defensively. The Red Sox have three potential impact catching prospects right now and the Yankees have four, albeit one of them is splitting time at another position. Advantage: Yankees.

Highest Ceilings: Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Blake Swihart (Red Sox), Peter O'Brien (Yankees), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Luis Torrens (Yankees)

Best Power: Peter O'Brien (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Blake Swihart (Red Sox), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Jon Denney (Red Sox)

Best Average: Blake Swihart (Red Sox), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Luis Torrens (Yankees), Christian Vazquez (Red Sox), Gary Sanchez (Yankees)

Best Defense: Luis Torrens (Yankees), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Christian Vazquez (Red Sox), Dan Butler (Red Sox), Gary Sanchez (Yankees)

Best Speed: Blake Swihart (Red Sox), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Luis Torrens (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Jordan Weems (Red Sox).

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\r\n \r\n\r\nThe Two Farm Systems: Both organizations have long-term potential difference makers at the catcher's spot among their respective prospects right now but the Yankees have a few more lottery tickets at the position.
\r\n
\r\nBoston's top two catching prospects entering the season were Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, and that remains the case today. Swihart, Boston's first round pick out of high school in 20011, took the expected step forward in his development this year offensively, hitting a solid .298 with 29 doubles for high-A Salem. The switch-hitter continues to show very good plate discipline and he has long-term average to above average power potential. Defensively there's still a ton of room to get better but his progress has been steady behind the plate thus far.
\r\n
\r\nVazquez on the other hand is so good defensively already that Boston was able to pass on signing Jarrod Saltalamacchi to a long-term deal. He is above average defensively in every way; blocking, receiving, working with his pitchers, catch-and-throw, etc. Offensively, while the power hasn't just yet materialized [he hit five home runs in 2013 for Double-A Portland], the plate discipline continues to get better and better [he walked more times than he struck out] and he hit .289 this year. He might not be a difference-maker offensively but he can handle the bat enough to be an everyday big league catcher down the road.
\r\n
\r\nBoston added some much needed depth to the position this year with the third round selection of Jon Denney out of high school in Oklahoma. He just turned 19 years old this offseason and he enters the professional ranks with long-term above average to potentially plus power, above average hitting potential, and above average to plus arm strength. As is the case with all teenage catching prospects, he has some work to do defensively but he shows the requisite athleticism to make the long-term adjustments behind the plate to not only stick at the position but potentially be average or better.
\r\n
\r\nOutside of those three, however, the Red Sox don't have much in the way of potential impact catching prospects. Dan Butler, known for his great overall defensive game, is coming off of a career-high 14 home runs season with Triple-A Pawtucket this year but he's already 27 years old and projects best as a backup catcher. And Jordan Weems, Boston's third round pick out of high school in 2011, hit just .204 after repeating the low-A level this year and he' still seeking his first professional home run.
\r\n
\r\nThe Yankees on the other hand have a number of solid big league catching prospects up and down their minor league system despite Austin Romine losing his rookie status this year by four at-bats. J.R. Murphy, New York's second round pick back in 2009, hit a combined .269 with a career-high 12 home runs between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, and he continues to show great plate discipline. The 22-year old is already an above average defensive catcher and he has a lot more left in the tank offensively.
\r\n
\r\nGary Sanchez, New York's top International free agent signing back in 2009, had a disappointing 2013 campaign in many respects, hitting just a combined .253 between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton and clubbing a career-low 15 home runs in his tenure in the long-season leagues. Still, while the numbers were disappointing, it speaks volumes to his offensive potential and he just turned 21 years old this month. Defensively, he's above average in nearly every way, especially throwing out runners where he's borderline plus. A bit more commitment to his physical conditioning could be the final piece in his development puzzle towards becoming an impact big league catcher on both sides of the ball someday.
\r\n
\r\nThe Yankees also have a hot-shot catching prospect at the lower minor league levels too in the form of right-handed hitting Luis Torrens. Last year's top International free agent signing skipped the Dominican Summer League entirely and hit a respectable .241 for the Gulf Coast League Yankees as the youngest player in the league. His plate discipline is superb, he has long-term average to above average power potential, and defensively his progress thus far has been amazing -- he's already an above average defender one short year into his development and many scouts believe the 17-year old could eventually be the best of the Yankee catching lot down the road.
\r\n
\r\nThe biggest wild card catching-wise in either organization is Peter O'Brien, the Yankees' second round pick in 2012 out of the University of Miami. Blessed with arguably the best power potential of any player at any position in either organization, he slugged a combined 65 extra-base hits between low-A Charleston and high-A Tampa in his first full season this year. He does strike out a bit too much as most sluggers tend to do, and while he has plus-plus arm strength and some agility for a bigger guy, there are defensive inconsistencies that need to be ironed out. In fact, he began playing some third base this year to help create some defensive versatility. Don't let that position switch ignore the fact that defensively he's not as bad as advertised by some pundits -- he is at least as good defensively as Atlanta's Evan Gattis and the bat can make up for some defensive shortcomings.
\r\n
\r\nWhile Murphy, Sanchez, Torrens, and O'Brien are clearly the best long-term catching options for the Yankees right now, they do have a number of 'sleeper' prospects at the position, including Alvaro Noriega [19], Eduardo De Oleo [20], and Isaias Tejeda [22], all of whom have solid enough offensive ceilings that they are more than mere afterthoughts right now. While longshots at best at this point, it would also be unwise to completely write off the defensive prowess of both Francisco Arcia and Kyle Higashioka as potential backup type catchers someday -- both had injuries in 2013 that limited their playing time.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
\r\nHow Do They Compare In...
\r\n
\r\nPower: This is about as close to a 'no contest' as it gets. While Swihart and Denney project to have average to above average power at minimum down the road, and Vazquez has a bit more power than his five home runs this year show, the fact is the trio of Sanchez, O'Brien, and Murphy have already started tapping their power and Torrens will hit home runs down the road too. Advantage: Yankees
\r\n
\r\nHitting For Average: While the Yankees might have a shade more depth here in terms of sheer number of prospects, this is the one category where the Red Sox make it a race. Swihart and Vazquez are already solid hitters, and Denney should be in time. It's just enough to combat the hitting abilities of Murphy, Sanchez, and Torrens right now. Should Peter O'Brien cut down on the strikeouts though he could tip this in the Yankee favor someday. Advantage: Even
\r\n
\r\nDefense: A year ago this one was a wash because Vazquez and Butler were already above average defenders. And while Swihart made some steady progress and Denney's inclusion with his long-term defensive potential gives Boston a boost, the fact is the Yankee catching prospects, particularly Murphy, Sanchez, and Torrens, all made significant strides defensively, enough to give the Yankees a slight edge here. Advantage: Yankees.
\r\n
\r\nSpeed: Perhaps Murphy and Torrens, both former third baseman, give the Yankees a slight edge in the running game, but there is no real discernible difference between the two organizations in this department. Advantage: Even.
\r\n
\r\nOverall Potential: The forward progress of Swihart in 2013 and the selection of Denney gives Boston a bit more at the position than they had a year ago but it still doesn't quite compare with what the Yankees have to offer behind the plate both offensively and defensively. The Red Sox have three potential impact catching prospects right now and the Yankees have four, albeit one of them is splitting time at another position. Advantage: Yankees.
\r\n
\r\nHighest Ceilings: Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Blake Swihart (Red Sox), Peter O'Brien (Yankees), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Luis Torrens (Yankees)
\r\n
\r\nBest Power: Peter O'Brien (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Blake Swihart (Red Sox), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Jon Denney (Red Sox)
\r\n
\r\nBest Average: Blake Swihart (Red Sox), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Luis Torrens (Yankees), Christian Vazquez (Red Sox), Gary Sanchez (Yankees)
\r\n
\r\nBest Defense: Luis Torrens (Yankees), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Christian Vazquez (Red Sox), Dan Butler (Red Sox), Gary Sanchez (Yankees)
\r\n
\r\nBest Speed: Blake Swihart (Red Sox), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Luis Torrens (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Jordan Weems (Red Sox).
\r\n
\r\n

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