Since being taken with the 23rd overall pick in last year's Draft, Anthony Seigler has had one thing on his mind: playing baseball for the Yankees organization. The University of Florida recruit opted to sign with New York rather than take his talents to Gainesville and didn't waste any time showcasing why the Yankees made him the first prep backstop selected on June 4, 2018. However, injuries cut the 19-year-old's rookie campaign short and delayed the start of his sophomore season.
With a clean bill of health and following a June 10 assignment to Class A Charleston, Seigler is already turning heads 10 games into his full-season debut. And the versatile catcher isn't taking anything for granted as he uses the hardships of the last year as lessons to help him achieve the goal he's had from the first time he donned a Yankees cap -- to stay on the field.
Video: Seigler drives in a run for RiverDogs
"It was a long and grueling process. I was working hard every day to get back and get healthy," Seigler said. "To be honest, I wasn't all right with it, but I had to go with it. But now I'm back stronger and healthier than before, and I have the strength coaches and everyone else who worked with me throughout the process to thank for that. They helped me keep my mind-set right through it all and now I'm glad to be back playing the game I love with my boys.
"The whole thing was really a learning process and the hard part was just trusting it, really. But now I have a better understanding of myself and what I can do, and it's helped me create a routine that will, hopefully, keep me on the field."
The sixth-ranked Yankees prospect began his professional career in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last summer. After appearing in 12 games with the GCL Yankees West and going 12-for-36 with three extra-base hits and a .901 OPS, Seigler was promoted to Rookie Advanced Pulaski on July 31, 2018. The backstop appeared in 12 Appalachian League games before being shut down with hamstring issues and then suffering a concussion in a game against Kingston on Aug. 16.
"That took a while to come back from. They really took their time with me," he said. "But everything went really well and I slowly just got back into throwing and hitting, and I was back at full strength and ready to go for Spring Training."
The switch-hitter reported to Minor League camp and picked up where he left off, flashing his talent at the plate and behind the dish. But the injury bug bit Seigler again as a quadriceps strain took him out of action and delayed the start of his year.
"He was itching to get back on the field," Yankees Minor League hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson said. "It was very hard to keep him off the field during his rehab -- he loves the game. It's where he feels the most comfortable. But he came to the complex every day with the same attitude, always with a smile, and did exactly what was asked of him and more."
When the Georgia native finally made his season debut on June 10 at Rome, he got to do so close to home and in front of his friends and family.
"It was so awesome," he said. "The field in Rome is like 20 minutes away from my house, so I got to play the game in front of my family and my boys who I grew up with came out to support me. A lot of people who helped me along the way to get here -- teachers, coaches -- were there. It was just awesome."
Through his first 10 games with the RiverDogs, Seigler has a .250/.415/.313 slash line with a pair of doubles, an RBI and five runs scored. He's appeared in six games behind the plate for Charleston and is sporting a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with 50 putouts and seven assists in 57 total chances. He's also nabbed three of 10 attempted base stealers.
"He's very athletic, and that athleticism really plays back there," Yankees Minor League catching coordinator J.D. Closser said. "He's got good flexibility, good hands and he frames very well. He's got a good ability to read the pitch and bring the ball to the spot to receive it. He also moves really well back there. I've seen him block pitches that I thought, 'That shouldn't have been blocked.' He's also got a strong arm. He gets the ball out quickly and he's accurate.
"At the plate, he's going to get the bat on the ball consistently and make solid contact. He has good awareness of the strike zone, and he's shown an aptitude to make the changes necessary when he has to. He can feel and make adjustments very quickly."
Video: Charleston's Seigler throws out a runner
Taken out of Carterville High School, Seigler wasn't just a standout switch-hitter; he was also a dominating ambidextrous pitcher. Using a rare six-finger glove, Seigler was clocked at 90 mph as a right-hander and sat mid-80s as a southpaw. He posted a 1.09 ERA over 25 2/3 frames on the bump and batted .421 with 14 dingers and 34 RBIs his senior year, when he led Cartersville to the 4A state championship series. He also threw out 12 of 21 would-be thieves.
"Anthony was taken in the first round because he brings a lot to the table already," Lawson said. "When I was hired last year, I went to the video to look at prospects and it doesn't take long to realize just how skilled Anthony is. He makes tons of contact, controls the strike zone and continues to develop power. And he's just been working his tail off since he got here."
As a member of the RiverDogs, Seigler also has the opportunity to battery with arguably the most exciting crop of pitching prospects in the Yankees system. Roansy Contreras (10th-ranked), Luis Gil (13th-ranked) and Luis Medina (14th-ranked) make up the core of Charleston's starting rotation, and all possess plus-plus fastballs. Seigler joked that after catching one of Medina's starts, he wished his glove had a little extra padding.
"Everyone here has really great, electric stuff and it's cool being able to catch them right now," he said. "Just being able to know that they're going to move up and probably be in the bigs in three or four years and I was able to catch them ... it's awesome."
But he may not have to admire from too far a distance.
2019 MiLB include
"This experience for him right now is huge," Closser said. "You want to put your best prospects together and let them develop together. Build that camaraderie, start building a repertoire, figure out what you can and can't do and how everyone works. And that's what's happening."
And despite being more than 1.5 years younger than the average player in the South Atlantic League, Seigler is embracing the challenge.
"The biggest thing that jumps out to you about him is his ability to not allow the game to speed up on him," Closser said. "He can slow the game down and be in the moment and not worry too much about what's around him. For a young kid, it's impressive to see what he's handled already. He plays like he belongs … and he does."
And being in his element after such a long time on the sidelines makes it easy for Seigler to stay in the moment.
"I'm not looking too far ahead right now. My goals are day to day," he said. "At the plate, I want to continue doing what I do -- spray the ball, go gap to gap, stick to my routines. And on defense, I'm working on staying quiet and making more subtle movements back there.
"I don't care about stats. As long as I play well and feel good, give it my all and put my team in a good spot to make the playoffs, that's all that really matters for me. ... I just want to finish the season on a good note and stay healthy the whole year -- that's my main focus."