Jesus Montero: It's pretty tough for a 17-year old catcher to have a better professional debut season than Montero had with the Gulf Coast League Yankees last year. After starting the season on the disabled list with a pretty severely sprained ankle, the slugger went on to hit .280 with three home runs in the regular season before finding his real power stroke in the playoffs, smacking a pair of a long home runs in four games.
Possessing the most power potential of any position prospect in the Yankees farm system and a solid hitter at the plate, it was the defensive strides he made in his rookie campaign that were arguably more impressive. A big-bodied catcher upon signing in July of 2006, he trimmed down a lot and vastly improved his flexibility behind the plate. He also has a very strong arm and at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds already, while some question whether or not he will eventually out-grow the position, he won't be moved from behind the dish because he can't handle the defensive duties.
Austin Romine: The Yankees' second round-pick in 2007 is just a tad smaller than Montero and also has just slightly less power potential, but the combination might play better behind the plate long-term. He has an incredibly strong arm with an even quicker release and already works very well with his pitchers. Improving his receiving and getting a bit more flexible will be the focal points in his defensive development as he gets set to begin his professional career in 2008.
Offensively he has the presence of a seasoned veteran and he is very adept at driving the ball from center to right field consistently with plus power potential. A better defensive option right now, he might not hit for as much power as Montero but he'll make it very close.
Closest to the Majors
Francisco Cervelli: Being added to the 40-man roster this offseason - an amazing feat considering he skipped a minor league level last year in his first full minor league season - has Cervelli on the doorstep of the big leagues. His top-notch defensive game is ready for the major leagues right now and his above average combination of discipline and patience at the plate makes him a solid offensive contributor.
Kyle Anson: Even with the plethora of strong-armed catchers the Yankees have now, nobody has a better combination of arm strength, quick release, and accuracy than Anson. Considering 2007 was essentially his first year catching, he still has work to do refining his receiving skills and calling better games.
Arguably the most disciplined hitter in the entire Yankees farm system, the switch-hitter has a Bill Mueller type of offensively ceiling and that makes him a potential plus offensive player for an excellent catch-and-throw receiver.
|OVERLOOKED BY MANY: Arcia has a solid overall game on both sides of the ball and he has proven to have the makings of a clutch hitter. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Defensively he resembles a younger version of Francisco Cervelli with his quick feet behind the plate and strong and accurate throws. He is also one of the more confident players around and, despite a log-jam of solid catching prospects at the lower minor league levels, he has the makeup to quietly fly under the radar.
Chase Weems: The second catcher selected in last year's draft by the Yankees after Romine already puts him in the sleeper category and it only enhances his status there when he's thrown into the same group of catchers as Montero at the lower minor league levels. Not possessing nearly the same offensive potential as either, he has shown to swing a solid left-handed bat and his plate presence is uncanny for such a young player.
Defensively he is extremely agile with very quick feet, showing a plus ability at blocking balls in the dirt, and he too has an incredibly strong and accurate arm. He is also one of the better receivers among the group at the lower levels and he has great makeup. He might get overshadowed by the likes of Montero and Romine as he progresses through the minor leagues but he has the potential to be quite special in his own right.
Need to Make Their Move
P.J. Pilittere: The 26-year old Cal-State Fullerton product product doesn't have an impressive set of tools on either side of the ball but has proven to be quite solid. He doesn't have much power but he gives a very good-bat every time and makes solid contact. Defensively he doesn't do any one thing extremely well but he is reliable in all facets of the game, especially with his ability to work with pitchers. Destined for Triple-A in 2008 he'll need to secure a 40-man roster spot soon to fend off the likes of Cervelli and Anson coming up behind him.
Jose Gil: Gil, who turned 21 in September, had his best power showing in 2007 after hitting a combined 12 home runs between Charleston and Staten Island. A career .230 hitter however, and without one great tool defensively, he hasn't shown a consistent enough stroke to fight off the catchers [Romine, Montero, Weems, etc] coming up behind him. How he responds in 2008 could be a deciding factor in determining his place in the organization.
The Jury is Still Out
Yeider Chirinos: The Venezuelan native has spent his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and has shown steady progress. The 5-foot-9 right-handed batter has proven to be a pesky out at the plate and shows great agility behind it. He has a long road ahead of him to overtake the stronger hitters at the same position.
Jorge Liccien: Signed last July out of Venezuela, the slender-framed catcher has quickly earned the reputation as an excellent catch-and-throw backstop with Cervelli-like upside. He has yet to play an official minor league game, and with so many young catchers ahead of him at the current time, he seems destined to begin his career in the Dominican Summer League in 2008.
Damian Taveras: Signed in July of 2006 for his strong arm and offensive potential, he resisted the organization's attempts to move him from third base last season and hit just .207 with 31 errors in 53 games at the hot corner. He has since relented and will be making the move behind the plate in 2008, most certainly in the Dominican Summer League.