J.R. Murphy: There is a buzz around Murphy's offensive potential, even already getting compared as a right-handed hitting version of Corban Joseph as a high-average hitter with gap tendencies. That would make him a plus offensive player at the position if those comparisons prove to ring true.
He is new to the position, however, so there will be some growing pains behind the dish. His plus makeup and solid baseball upbringing in high school lead many to believe he has what it takes to make the transition to become a solid defensive backstop. The arm and athleticism are already there physically.
Austin Romine: He ranks behind Montero in the power department but he is clearly the better overall catcher at the higher minor league levels for the Yankees. He is adept at blocking balls, calling games, and his arm is a plus. He also got more agile in 2009 and made tremendous strides in his receiving skills.
Offensively his approach has always been considered mature for his age, showing great up the middle to right field tendencies, and his power is above average right now and could get better as he continues to get older. He could be a difference-maker on both sides of the ball.
Gary Sanchez: Like Romine, Sanchez has the potential to be a game-changer someday both offensively and defensively. His power has been grouped in discussions with Montero, he has been lauded for his solid swing mechanics at a young age, and he has an advanced feel for handling offspeed pitches.
On the defensive side he has all of the makings to be a plus defensive player someday and it starts with his overall athleticism. He shows good flexibility and quick feet already, and the kind of agility that should aid his development in the coming years. He has a plus arm too.
Closest to the Majors
Jesus Montero: A .325 hitter in his career thus far, a career that has already reached the Double-A level, there is little more Montero can prove offensively. Throw in the fact he has averaged 17 home runs the past two years, he appears to be big league ready with the bat.
While not a game-changer behind the dish, Montero unfairly gets criticized for being raw defensively when in actuality he isn't that far off from being big league ready. His biggest weaknesses are his lack of foot speed and agility, two traits that don't project to improve too much as he gets older anyway. He can handle the position now and his defensive development might actually be better at the big league level than in the minors at this point.
Kyle Higashioka: 'Higgy' gets overlooked in what has rapidly become an incredibly deep position in the Yankees farm system and it's because his lack of plus power...plus power at the plate and plus arm strength behind it.
|INTRIGUING BAT: Taveras swings a potent bat and employs a good offensive approach. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Damian Taveras: The former third baseman fought switching positions back in 2007 and that not only caused him to spend his first three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, but it has allowed him to be overlooked.
He brings a plus arm to the position and he has smoothed out the rough edges in the other defensive aspects of his game. His offensive approach is very good and the power isn't just projectable, it's more of a 'now' tool. He needs to have the kind of breakout season many scouts believe he could have and he needs to do it soon. If he does, he could really move up the rankings in a hurry.
Need to Make Their Move
Mitch Abeita: He has a solid offensive approach and there's nothing wrong with his defensive game either, but physically he is far behind his competitors. He doesn't have a plus tool outside of his makeup and in this catching crop that will work against him. He needs to take advantage of the playing time he's been getting.
Kyle Anson: Knee injuries slowed down his development behind the plate for the better part of two years and that has buried him depth-wise. His plus big league plate discipline and plus arm strength keep him on the fringe of the prospect radar, but he needs to put up some numbers soon to keep pace with the young guns coming up behind him.
Francisco Arcia: With good plate discipline, a strong arm, and switch-hitting ablities, the 20-year old Arcia is a bit of a 'sleeper'. However, younger guys with better tools are coming up behind him and snagging his playing time. The complete package is there, but like Anson, he needs a breakout season soon.
Jose Gil: He has a decent arm and some pop in his bat, and pitchers like throwing to him. But he is quickly being buried even among the backup catching depth and there appears to be little he can do to change that in Pinstripes.
P.J. Pilittere: He is arguably the smartest player on the field whenever he plays. He knows all there is needed to know about pitching and he manages a pitching staff better than anybody, but his physical tools are simply not there. He has an outside chance as a big league backup someday, but the odds are better that he could thrive as a big league bullpen catcher or manager.
The Jury is Still Out
Jhorge Liccien: The 19-year old is a plus defensive catcher in the making with great arm strength and incredible athleticism behind the plate. In that regard he is Francisco Cervelli-like. He has a knack for making contact too, but the approach needs more refinement and he needs to physically get stronger.
Jackson Valera: The 17-year old is the complete opposite of Liccien. His approach is tremendous, his batting eye is advanced, and he has intriguing power potential. His major problems are on the defensive side. He shows little mobility and the receiving advancements are slow to date. The bat will move him but the jury is still out as to whether or not he can stick at the catcher's position.