The New York Yankees selected catcher J.R. Murphy out of The Pendleton School in Florida in the…
Yankees vs. Mets: Catching Prospects
The former Phillies prospect dealt to the Blue Jays in the Roy Halladay trade before heading to Queens in recent months represents arguably the best balance of high upside and safeness in reaching his ceiling in either farm system. He is coming off of a season at Triple-A Las Vegas, the former highest minor league home of the Blue Jays and soon to be Triple-A home of the Mets in 2013, hitting .333 with 39 extra-base hits [including 16 home runs] in just 67 games.
Defensively he is above average in all facets -- blocking, receiving, throwing, handling a pitching staff -- and offensively, while he's not overly patient, he does show good strike zone discipline that should allow him to be an above average big league offensive contributor someday as well. The one negative to his game besides not drawing a ton of walks is the nagging injuries he continues to sustain, including back problems two years ago, a concussion shortly after that, and a torn ligament in his thumb last season.
The Yankees have their own sky-high talent at backstop in the form of Gary Sanchez. The Dominican native, like d'Arnaud, is one of the elite offensive talents at the catcher's position in all of minor league baseball. He just turned 20 years old this offseason and he's coming off a season that saw him hit a combined .290 with 18 home runs between low-A Charleston and high-A Tampa.
Physically he's as gifted a defensive catcher as anyone, including boasting plus arm strength, and mentally he has really matured over the past year to help bring his defensive game along quicker. Offensively his approach is very much like that of d'Arnaud, showing good patience at the plate but the kind of aggressiveness in the zone that doesn't really allow a high number of walks either.
Beyond d'Arnaud, however, the Mets have more of mixed bag at the catcher's position in the long-season leagues, most of whom project to be big league backup catcher types at best, including Juan Centeno, Blake Forsythe, Albert Cordero, Camden Maron, and Kai Gronauer. Centeno, now Double-A tested, represents the catching prospect with the above average defensive skills who is closing in on being big league ready and has the ability to hit pretty well, but his power potential is limited.
Cordero, a low-A catcher, follows similar lines to Centeno as more of a defensive-minded backstop who can hit some but whose power will most likely relegate him to backup duties long-term. Forsythe and Maron both have some better offensive potential worth tracking but are not nearly the same defensive gems that Centeno and Cordero are right now.
The Yankees on the other hand have a lot more viable options at catcher in the long-season leagues, including Triple-A tested Austin Romine and now Double-A experienced J.R. Murphy. Both Romine and Murphy are above average defensive catchers with the potential to be average to above average hitters, and even provide some average to above average power potential as well. The 21-year old Murphy in particular has the kind of plate discipline to be a high on-base guy should he continue to develop and is arguably the best 'sleeper' catching prospect in either organization.
Both New York organizations have some lower-level catching depth too in, or soon to be coming out of, the short-season leagues. Tomas Nido, the Mets' eighth round pick in 2012, has some long-term raw plus power potential and plus arm strength that could make him a difference-maker down the road, but the offensive approach needs work as does refining his other defensive skills.
The Yankees' Peter O'Brien, their second round pick in 2012, is an older version of Nido. He too has plus arm strength and both his defensive game and offensive approach need refining to bring the game together better. However, where the 22-year old O'Brien differs is the power potential is not raw, it is plus 'now' power, hitting nine home runs in one month last season.
The Mets' Kevin Plawecki, a supplemental first round pick in 2012, represents the best all-around catching option in either organization at the lowest minor league levels, showing big league plate discipline, average power potential, and a refined overall defensive game that should allow him to stick there long-term. Like O'Brien though, Plawecki is a college product who will need to begin moving a bit quicker sooner rather than later.
Like the Mets have with Nido, the Yankees have a long-term wildcard in Chris Breen, a 12th round pick out of high school last year who has long-term plus power potential. He has been playing some outfield too, however, and it remains to be seen if he will remain at catcher long-term because the Yankees might attempt to tap the most of his plus offensive potential by keeping him fresher and not sticking him behind the plate.
And like the Mets, the Yankees have their fair share of solid catching prospects who project to be more potential backup options or organizational players at this point in the form of Kyle Higashioka, Francisco Arcia, and Isaias Tejeda. Higashioka is a plus defender with some power too, but the bat hasn't come around enough and Arcia, a solid all-around player, doesn't have the one great physical tool to help him stand out.
Where the depth, already in favor of the Yankees, is going to get a bit more unfair is when they unveil Luis Torrens in the United States real soon. Last year's top International signing out of Venezuela doesn't have the plus power potential others like Sanchez, O'Brien, and Nido have, but like J.R. Murphy, a player he compares favorably too, offers a safe projection as a solid all-around player on both sides of the ball.
How Do They Compare In...
Power: While the above average power potential of d'Arnaud combined with the plus power potential of Nido and average power potential of Plawecki gives the Mets intriguing power depth at the catcher's spot, it's not just enough to compare with Sanchez and O'Brien's plus power potential, and the cumulative depth of average to above average power potential between the likes of Romine, Murphy, and others. Advantage: Yankees
Hitting For Average: Just including guys likely to reach the big league level, the above average hitting potential of d'Arnaud and average to above average potential of Plawecki are just not enough to offset the likes of Romine, Murphy, and Sanchez, and that is not even including Torrens who is coming soon and if Breen remains behind the plate. Advantage: Yankees
Defense: Again, depth is king here. d'Arnaud and Plawecki are very good defensive catchers, but so are Sanchez, Romine, and Murphy. And even if you throw in the likes of Centeno and Cordero into the equation, the Yankees can match backups with Higashioka and Arcia. Throw in Torrens who potentially compares to a Romine or Murphy defensively down the road, the Yankees have too much depth here. Advantage: Yankees.
Speed: These are catchers -- speed doesn't matter -- and neither organization has a decided advantage. Advantage: Even.
Overall Potential: The Yankees have three catchers already in the long-season leagues, two of whom have Double-A experience at minimum, who have the realistic potential to not only be big league starting catchers but have above average talent too. The Mets on the other hand have just one in the long-season leagues with d'Arnaud. And while the Mets have some intrigue at the lower minor league levels, the fact is the Yankees have as much if not more there too. Advantage: Yankees.
Highest Ceilings: Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Mets), Peter O'Brien (Yankees), Tomas Nido (Mets), J.R. Murphy (Yankees)
Best Power: Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Peter O'Brien (Yankees), Travis d'Arnaud (Mets), Tomas Nido (Mets), J.R. Murphy (Yankees)
Best Average: Travis d'Arnaud (Mets), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Kevin Plawecki (Mets), Austin Romine (Yankees)
Best Defense: Travis d'Arnaud (Mets), Austin Romine (Yankees), J.R. Murphy (Yankees), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Kevin Plawecki (Mets)
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