I get a lot of questions about the Yankees’ stockpile of young catchers in the minors. Why do they keep bringing these guys in, where are they all going to play, how would you rank them, yadda yadda yadda. As I always say, there’s no such thing as too much of anything in the minors, except for non-prospects. In his weekly AskBA column, Jim Callis fielded a question about this very subject, so allow me to excerpt:
The Yankees have spent heavily to amass the best catching depth in the minors. Only Cervelli, who signed for $65,000 out of Venezuela in 2003, came cheaply. Montero got $1.65 million when he turned pro out of Venezuela three years later. Romine (second round, 2007) and Higashioka (seventh round, 2008) both received $500,000 bonuses. New York invested even more heavily this summer, giving Murphy $1.25 million as a second-rounder (the second-highest bonus in that round this year) and Sanchez $3 million (the second-highest bonus on the international market in 2009). The Yankees also spent $450,000 on 2007 seventh-rounder Chase Weems, whom they traded to the Reds this summer for Jerry Hairston Jr.
Montero is clearly the best prospect of that group and might have won our Minor League Player of the Year award if he hadn’t broken his left middle finger. He’s the best power-hitting prospect in the minors, but he lacks agility and quickness behind the plate, which may dictate a move to another position. In 59 games as a catcher this year, he committed 11 passed balls and threw out just 20 percent of basestealers. He does have some arm strength but it takes him too long to get rid of the ball.
Romine has the best all-around tools of the Yankees catching prospects. He should hit for a decent average with some power, and he has the strong arm and athleticism to take care of business behind the plate. Cervelli is the top defender in the group, though his below-average hitting ability and power make him more of a future backup.
Murphy could wind up as the second-best hitter of the bunch behind Montero, and he has made a nice transition to catching after playing outfield and third base for much of his amateur career. Higashioka is still a raw 19-year-old, but he’s similar to Romine, albeit with less athleticism. Sanchez is even less refined, but his bat speed, power potential and arm strength are all plus tools. He’s athletic for a catcher and could develop similarly to Romine, but his receiving and footwork are iffy enough (and his bat tantalizing enough) that he could go down the Montero path.
As overall prospects, I’d stack them up in this order: Montero, Romine, Murphy, Sanchez, Cervelli, Higashioka.
As you all probably already know, I’m not very keen on international signees until they get to the states and do something, so I’d rank them in the same order except with Sanchez last. That’s just my opinion though.
Cervelli has the inside track on the backup catcher job for the big league club next year, and JR Murphy is a candidate for Extended Spring Training since he’s relatively new to catching. That would put Montero with Triple-A Scranton, Romine with Double-A Trenton, Higashioka with Low-A Charleston, and Sanchez with the Rookie GCL Yanks. The Yanks could also opt to send Montero back to Trenton to at least start the year, meaning he and Romine would do the C/DH thing again. That would also work if the Yanks retain Jose Molina or bring in another veteran catcher, sending Cervelli back to Triple-A.
I guess the point of this post is that you can never have too much of a good thing. Not all of these guys will make it. Heck, if two make it, the Yankees will be very lucky. Enjoy the depth, stop worrying about who’s going where.