Yanks' system has host of promising backstops

Yanks' system has host of promising backstops

Yanks' system has host of promising backstops
At the start of the 2011 season, MLB.com unveiled Top 10 Prospect lists for all 30 Major League organizations on Prospect Watch. Over the course of the season, those lists changed due to graduations to the big leagues, trades and performances. With the season completed, MLB.com will review how the prospects on those lists fared in 2011.

The Yankees said goodbye to an important piece of the past, as Jorge Posada, one of the greatest catchers in franchise history, retired. They've already bid farewell to top catching prospect Jesus Montero, after trading him to the Mariners for starting pitcher Michael Pineda.

But the future remains bright behind the plate for the organization, and there is reason to believe that greatness will once again be thrust upon them.

Even without Montero, the list of young talented catchers in the organization includes Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy. They are not household names yet, but perhaps they will be one day.

"We've got exceptional depth and good quality of depth behind the plate," said Mark Newman, the club's senior vice president of baseball operations. "That's a premium position, and we have a high level of talent there."

Newman is being modest.

Sanchez could be a better all-around catcher than Montero, but the consensus is that he needs time to develop. Sanchez hit .256 with 16 doubles, 17 home runs and 52 RBIs in 82 games for Class A Charleston last season, and he continues to make progress.

In 2010, Sanchez combined to hit .329, with eight home runs and 43 RBIs, in 47 games in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues.

As for Romine, he is less of an offensive threat than both Montero and Sanchez, but many believe he has the skills to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues. He hit .286 with six home runs and 47 RBIs in 85 games at Double-A Trenton, and .133 in four games at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre last season. Romine also hit .158 in nine games for the big league club.

Romine, selected in the second round by the Yanks in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, has a .281 batting average in 427 Minor League games.

Top 10 Review

Yankees fans also have plenty of reasons to be excited about what's happening in front of home plate as well.

Newman said it best: "We have solid pitching."

Left-handed pitcher Manny Banuelos and right-hander Dellin Betances have deservedly received most of the attention, and that trend should continue in 2012. Banuelos had a combined record of 6-7 with a 3.75 ERA in 129 innings at Double-A and Triple-A in 2011. He struck out 125 batters during his 27 Minor League starts, and continues to impress.

As for Betances, he started the season at Double-A and went 4-6 with a 3.42 ERA in 21 starts. He went 0-3 with a 5.14 ERA in four starts at Triple-A, striking out 27 while walking 15. He led the system with 142 strikeouts.

However, Banuelos and Betances are not the only pitching prospects in the organization making strides.

Organizational Reviews

Right-handed pitcher Adam Warren went 6-8 with a 3.60 ERA in 152 1/3 innings at Triple-A. He struck out 111 and walked 53, and continues to position himself as a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation type of pitcher. Right-hander David Phelps, MLB.com's choice for the Yankees' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, is also developing into a serviceable starter, going 6-6 with a 3.19 ERA in 107 innings at Triple-A in 2011.

Fellow right-hander Andrew Brackman didn't make his Yanks debut until 2009 because he underwent Tommy John surgery after he was drafted in '07. He continues to make progress, but any further growth won't be with the Yankees, who released him in October. Brackman, who signed with the Reds earlier this month, went 3-6 with a 6.00 ERA in 33 games (13 starts) at Triple-A last season.

Organizational Players of the Year

MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Hitter of the Year: Sanchez, C

Sanchez could end up being a better overall catcher than Montero because of his skill set, but he's still developing. Sanchez hit almost as many doubles (16) as home runs (17) last season for Charleston.

Pitcher of the Year: Banuelos, LHP

Banuelos created a buzz with his repertoire in Spring Training last year, and he did not disappoint in 2011 -- striking out 125 hitters in 129 2/3 innings in 27 Minor League games. Banuelos has the chance to have three above-average to plus pitches.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

Hitter of the Year: Jorge Vazquez, 1B

Vazquez had a year to remember. The slugger hit 32 home runs and drove in 93 runs at Triple-A last season. He also hit 18 home runs with 60 RBIs in his first 56 games for Culiacan in Mexican League play following the Minor League season.

Pitcher of the Year: D.J. Mitchell, RHP

Mitchell led the system with 13 wins at Triple-A, and he ranked third overall with an ERA of 3.18. Mitchell struck out 112 batters in 161 1/3 innings.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.