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Andrew Yerzy could bolster D-backs’ thin catching pipeline

When the D-backs selected a catcher in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft and traded for another catcher in 2014, they probably didn’t think they’d be using their second round pick in 2016 to get a backstop.

That’s exactly what happened when Arizona selected 17-year-old Andrew Yerzy, a left-handed-hitting catcher, in the second round (52nd overall) of last week’s draft. Yerzy plays for the U18 Canadian Junior National Team, and has been a Rawlings-Perfect Game Third Team All-American and a co-champion of MLB’s Jr. Home Run Derby at the 2015 All-Star Game.

The D-backs once looked to Stryker Trahan when they picked him in the first round (26th overall) in 2012. He was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 16 prospect in the organization as recently as June of last season, but now isn’t even in the top 30. He has since moved to right field, and is hitting .173 in Class-A Visalia.

In 2014, Arizona dealt infielder Martin Prado to the Yankees for power-hitting catching prodigy Peter O’Brien. O’Brien is now in the major leagues, but is playing outfield and hasn’t gotten behind the plate in nearly a year.

The fizzling-out of Trahan and positional change of a still-powerful O’Brien have forced the D-backs to look for more options to renew their organization’s depth at catcher. With 29-year-old Welington Castillo and 28-year-old Chris Herrmann doing the catching in the big leagues now, the D-backs just have 32-year-old Tuffy Gosewisch as a serious replacement for an injured player.

Beyond that, next in line would likely be Single-A catcher Oscar Hernandez, a 22-year-old with 18 games of major league experience. The D-backs were optimistic enough about Hernandez to keep him on their big league roster for the entirety of 2015 (which they were required to do in order to keep him, as the Venezuelan was a Rule-5 Draft pick). Still, history should indicate that it would behoove a team to not put all of its eggs in a single prospect basket.

Even with the tandem of Hernandez and Yerzy, MLB.com doesn’t list any catcher in the D-backs’ top 30 prospects (besides the aforementioned O’Brien). The move to pick Yerzy could be akin to the Nationals’ approach with No. 10 prospect Pedro Severino. Washington signed Severino at 16, and after years of development, a 22-year-old Severino has been described as “one of the best defensive catchers in the Minors” and has made three big league appearances.

The replacement for Castillo and Herrmann may not be any of the above, but Yerzy’s arrival to the organization indicates that the team is making efforts to do something about the thin catching pipeline.

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