Gary Sanchez: Average Defensive Catcher?

Gary Sanchez Today, Baseball Prospectus announced their new defensive statistics for minor league catchers. Catcher defense has always been very hard to measure, especially at the minor league level. Here's what they're able to give us:

  • Controlling the running game (Swipe Rate Above Average, SRAA, and Takeoff Rate Above Average (TRAA)
  • Blocking (Errant Pitches Above Average, EPAA)
  • Framing (Called Strikes Above Average, CSAA)
  • Total (FRAA)

Missing here is the dark matter of catcher defense: game calling, sequencing, psychology, etc. However, this is overall pretty comprehensive. So where does Gary Sanchez rank?

  • Running Game: 0 runs
  • Blocking: 0 runs
  • Framing: +3.0 runs
  • Total: +3.0 runs

This is remarkable in how boring it is. Sanchez was a league-average Triple-A catcher in 2015. Given his hitting talent, that is a big deal. An average defensive catcher was worth something in the 1.5-2 win range alone in 2015. If he were to hit something conservative like .252/.320/.453, which is what Chris Young hit last season, we're talking about a 3.5-4.0 win player. Not bad.

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Discussion: What Would You Trade for Cole Hamels?

At some point between now and July, the Phillies will trade Cole Hamels. A so-far-so-good Spring Training aside, the Yankees clearly have a need for pitching. Hamels is signed to a reasonable long term contract and coming off his best season. All of this makes yesterday's new rumor predictable: Many teams have called on ace Cole Hamels, but so far one club has enticed the Phillies more than the others. Of the teams that have expressed interest in Hamels, the Yankees have come closer than anyone, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Bombers have offered a package of prospects for the 31-year-old that at least has given the Phillies a baseline for future talks.

Who knows how far along the Yankees got with trade talks. The Yankee front office is one of the least gossipy in the majors, so the rumor may not even be credible. Still, the news begs the question: What would you trade for Cole Hamels? What is your best offer?

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Yankees Still Generating Plenty Of Catching Depth

J.R. Murphy (Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

There was a time not too long ago when the Yankees looked like they were going to be set at catcher for a long time to come.  They had Russell Martin as the immediate replacement for Jorge Posada, top prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine waiting in the wings at the upper levels of their farm system, and an 18-year-old kid named Gary Sanchez raking down in A-ball.

Fast forward to the present day and the catcher position is basically a wasteland.  Lifelong backup Francisco Cervelli is on the DL with a broken hand, which cruelly befell him just as he finally seemed to be nailing down the starting job.  His backup Chris Stewart is who we thought he was and who he's always been as an all field/no hit player whose defensive reputation always seems to outweigh what he actually does on the field.  And Romine, now forced into the backup role for Stewart, has looked awful in his real Major League debut, posting a .151 wOBA and -17 wRC+ and striking out 17 times in 61 PA.

Oh, and the once great savior Jesus has been traded to Seattle and demoted back to Triple-A after registering as a negative WAR player in almost a full season's worth of games.  Yep, things have taken quite the bad turn in the world of Yankee catchers.  And yet somehow the future still looks just as bright for them at the position as it did 2 years ago.

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Sickels ranks farm system 14th in MLB

Yesterday, John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked the Yankees' farm system 14th in Major League Baseball, up two spots from last year's ranking of 16. Sickels comment on the Yankees was as follows:

14) New York Yankees (16): Strengths: quartet of young hitters at the top, with Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott all potential impact prospects, though all have some questions. Good depth in C+ types behind them. Weaknesses: impact pitching. I don't count Manny Banuelos as an automatic Tommy John recovery. Wildcard: Rafael DePaula, who could vault up lists quickly once he pitches against people his own age.

So they're not blowing the world away, but they're not falling behind, either. The construction of the farm system--at least the top thereof--shows us how quickly things can change in a farm system. Just a few years ago, we were excited about the "Killer B's," pitchers Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, and Dellin Betances. Aside from Jesus Montero, the farm was lacking in high-end position players. Now, the top four prospects are all position players with considerable upside. Sickels, of course, went more in depth with each prospect back in December when he named the organization's top 20 prospects. Let's get back to what Sickels said about the Yankees' quartet: they're high end, but they each have some risk. Let's review it for each guy:

1. Gary Sanchez: The bat is legit, but are we going to see him behind the plate? In Jesus Montero, the Yankees have already shown that they're willing to deal a hard-hitting catcher if his skills behind the plate aren't up to snuff.

2. Slade Heathcott: Injuries, injuries, injuries. All the talent is there. All the desire is there (maybe too much?). But the health just isn't there. He's never had more than 351 PA in a professional season and even with an appearance in the Arizona Fall League this year, he finished the year with only 344 PA.

3/4: Tyler Austin and Mason Williams: These are definitely the most polished and least questionable of the two. However, both are so young and far away that any expectations of success are still unwarranted. Though more see it the other way, I'm more of a believer in Austin than I am in Williams. His approach at the plate is clearly advanced and his power/speed potential is certainly enticing. Williams may play the more premium position and is more athletic, but despite that, I'll take the bat every time.

As Yankee fans, we're not used to relying on prospects for anything more than trade bait for a few reasons. The team has long made a habit of signing high-priced, big name talent that blocks prospects from coming up. There has also been a tendency to trade prospects away to acquire that same talent. And frankly, the Yankees just didn't have a good minor league system for a long time. Now, with the expectation of a lowered budget, the Yankees will (finally?) be forced to give their own guys a shot. Many have long clamored for the Yankees to do that, and I surely understand that call. However, giving the young guys a shot simply for the sake of doing so would have been ill-advised and still will be in the future. The difference this time is that the Yankees finally seem to have a group that might be able to be relied upon, even if it's just one of them.