Looking Down the Depth Chart for Yankees’ Catching
Barring any last-minute, surprise trick-up-Cashman’s-sleeve deals being struck, the Yankees will start the 2021 season with Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka as the backstops in the Bronx. In fact, I would think chances would be good that Higashioka gets the Opening Day nod, especially if Gerrit Cole is taking the mound. This makes catcher easily one of the biggest question marks for the Yankees not just this year but going forward, as the Yankees do not have any big catching prospects in the upper levels of the minors waiting for their chance.
For much of the time that I have covered the Yankees, the Yankees had a solid train of catching prospects. While the Yankees waited for highly-touted prospects like Sanchez and Jesus Montero, players like Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine, and John Ryan Murphy all filled in the gaps and gave Yankees fans something to cheer about. Higashioka was virtually ignored with all of these other players ahead of him either prospectively or actually, and for that reason, I love seeing him getting his shot to contribute regularly.
That being said, I also like watching the Yankees win and I think we all know Higgy isn’t going to be a long-term fix. I suspect I’m more optimistic than most Yankees fans, but I do hold out hope that Sanchez will manage to get back on track this season. If so, I’ll breathe a deep sigh of relief.
As it stands now, the Yankees actually have four catchers on their MLB.com Top 30 Prospects list. Guess how many of them played in Scranton (Triple-A)? Zero. Trenton (Double-A)? Also, zero. Tampa (High A)? 0000. Charleston (Low A)? Two! The Yankees have some interesting catching prospects, but they are all at least two or three years away, so that’s a story for another day.
So, who is on deck if Sanchez and Higgy end up injured or otherwise ineffective? Here are the most likely options given the roster as it stands.:
Rob Brantly: The 31-year-old was acquired by the Yankees from the Giants last August. He made his MLB debut in 2012 and has played in 127 big league games since then, about half of which was in 2013.
Max McDowell: The UConn alum was released by the Brewers last May and signed with the Yankees in June. He hasn’t played above Double-A but is currently assigned to Scranton’s roster. He has hit .232/.335/.323 in four seasons, having not played in 2020.
Kellin Deglin: Another journeyman who has yet to get his chance in the majors, Deglin was drafted out of Canada in 2010. The Yankees signed him in 2016 and he split 2019 between Scranton and Trenton. He struggled in his first trip to Triple-A, but he hit a solid .265/.333/.435 in Trenton.
There are other options, to be sure, but these are the guys most likely on deck should the Yankees need help behind the plate. No matter what, at this point, I’ll just be thrilled to have baseball back again.