Yankees vs. Blue Jays: Catching Prospects

J.R. Murphy continues to be underrated

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: The Yankee depth of catching prospects has been one of the best in all of baseball but it wasn't all that long ago that the Blue Jays could match New York's great depth at the position -- one year ago as a matter of fact. However, Toronto has been shopping like there is no tomorrow and it has cost them big-time in their catching prospects depth.

The most obvious loss was dealing Travis D'Arnaud to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal last month. He was not only the one catching prospect in the Toronto organization with the highest ceiling, but Triple-A tested, he was also the one closest to the big leagues. Throw in dealing away Carlos Perez to the Astros in the J.A. Happ trade near the trade deadline last summer and even shipping away backup catcher Yan Gomes [who still has rookie eligibility] to the Indians this offseason, the Blue Jays have taken a hit in their catching depth.

Toronto didn't just take a hit to their catchers via trade -- they lost one of their primo defensive backstops to injury last season. A.J. Jimenez, a superb catch and throw guy who is also a quality hitter, succumbed to Tommy John surgery a couple of months into the 2012 season. There should not be any long-term effects to his game, a game in which he has very few weaknesses. In fact the only knock on his game is his average at best big league power potential, which quite frankly grades out as more below average at the current time, but he should excel in all other areas of the game.

It's not like they lost all of their quality catching prospects either though. Venezuelan slugger Santiago Nessy, while admittedly has not yet broke into the long-season leagues, still offers vast long-term potential, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The recently turned 20-year old clubbed nine home runs in just 51 short-season league games last year and, big-bodied and strong, physically resembles a Yankee-type catcher. He has work to do defensively but few question his ability to handle the long-term defensive duties.

The Yankees on the other hand have created some unprecedented depth at the catcher's spot, especially in the long-season leagues. The headliner is Gary Sanchez who hit a combined .290 between two-A ball levels in 2012 with 18 home runs, and saw significant progress defensively behind the plate. He has just scratched the surface of his raw talent too and the recently turned 20-year old is likely to see some Double-A action in 2013.

Two catching prospects who already have Double-A experience -- Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy -- don't have quite the offensive ceiling of Sanchez but both offer more reliable above average defensive games at this point and some solid offensive skills that could make them big league regulars someday. Romine missed most of the 2012 season with a back injury but is on the short list of potential starting catchers for the Yankees in 2013, and the 21-year old Murphy hit 26 doubles and nine home runs between high-A and Double-A last season.

He has a ways to go defensively, but New York's Peter O'Brien, their second round pick in 2012, has the kind of raw power potential that could match that of Sanchez someday should his hitting become more consistent. Boasting a bazooka for an arm too, he has some skills behind the plate that could project him as a big league starting catcher someday but, just like his offensive approach, his blocking, receiving, game-calling, etc, all need some refinement going forward.

Both organizations have some lower-level guys worth keeping an eye down the road but are either young enough right now or have enough question marks that none are really in the legitimate starting catcher discussions yet. New York's Chris Breen, the Yankees' 12th round pick out of high school in 2012, has immense offensive potential and showed some solid defensive skills too but has been shifted to the outfield for some playing time and make better use of his offensive game, and it remains to be seen if that's a permanent move or not.

New York's Kyle Higashioka, a superb defensive catcher with some big league power potential has yet to hit consistently and is running out of minor league starting opportunities, and Dominican native Isaias Tejeda is an offensive-minded catcher who hit below .200 in 2012. Both are 'sleeper' prospects but more darkhorse candidates at this point.

Toronto's John Silviano, a 13th round pick out of high school in 2012, and Seth Conner fall into the offensive-minded backstop group as well. Both already display big league plate discipline and patience, and average to potentially slightly above average big league power potential, but both have work to do defensively and neither has gotten into the long-season leagues yet.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: The losses of d'Arnaud and Gomes this offseason, both of whom have legitimate big league power already, puts a major crimp in Toronto's power potential at the catcher's position depth-wise. Nessy has some serious power but it's not enough to combat that of Sanchez, O'Brien, and others. Advantage: Yankees

Hitting For Average: Toronto's catchers have the raw ability to be very good hitters for average someday, including Silviano and Nessy, but neither has proven it yet. Only Jimenez has done that for the Blue Jays. Meanwhile, New York's Romine, Murphy, and Sanchez have hit for average and project to do so long-term too. Advantage: Yankees

Defense: This was an even category a year ago but no longer after Toronto lost d'Arnaud. Only Jimenez projects to be an above average defensive backstop for the Jays and New York has a pair in Romine and Murphy, and Sanchez, despite all of his critics, has that kind of defensive ceiling too. Kyle Higashioka would be among the best too but he needs to hit better to get more of a shot to make better use of that great glove. Advantage: Yankees.

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: The mere presence of d'Arnaud would have made this a closer race in pretty much every category but as it stands right now there's just too much depth for New York here. Sanchez has big league All Star potential and O'Brien offers a huge offensive ceiling too. Throw in safer bets like Romine and Murphy, it's just too much. Advantage: Yankees.

Highest Ceilings: Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Peter O'Brien (Yankees), Santiago Nessy (Blue Jays), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees)

Best Power: Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Peter O'Brien (Yankees), Santiago Nessy (Blue Jays), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees)

Best Average: A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), John Silviano (Blue Jays)

Best Defense: A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays), Austin Romine (Yankees), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Kyle Higshioka (Yankees)

Best Speed: J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), John Silviano (Blue Jays).

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