Illig will likely start the season as Somerset’s third catcher, which yes, is an assumption, but one based on that he’s a 2019 draft pick (29th rounder out of West Virginia) who split his pro debut that year between the GCL and Staten Island and that the Patriots will also have two far more experienced backstops on the roster who will need playing time.
The 24-year-old batted .246 with one home run and seven RBI during his brief 24-game stay in pro ball in 2019, and threw out 18% of attempted basestealers along the way.
He’s a two-time member of the Big 12 All-Academic Team, and hit .223 over two NCAA seasons.
Lopez, 23, figures to split the bulk of the catching duties with Donny Sands this season in Somerset, just as they did two years ago in Tampa.
An international free agent signing out of Venezuela, Lopez has been in the system since he was a 17-year-old, where he played for the Yankees in the Dominican Summer League.
He made his debut stateside in the GCL in 2016, and has made the climb up the ladder ever since, spending the entirety of his 2019 campaign with High-A Tampa. He hit .209 with four homers and 25 RBI over 71 games for the Tarpons that year, but threw out an impressive 37 percent of attempted basestealers, which is actually a little under his career rate of 39 percent.
Sands was the Yankees eighth-rounder out of high school back in 2015, and has worked his way all the way up to where he earned an invite to big league camp just last year.
The 24-year-old saw a nearly even split behind the plate last year with Lopez in High-A Tampa in 2019, which was Sands’ first full season at that level after getting a taste in each of the previous two seasons.
He hit .221 with two homers and 22 RBI for the Tarpons, and earned an invitation to the Arizona Fall League, where he threw out 33 percent of attempted basestealers. With Tampa, he caught 32 of the 99 runners who tried to steal on him, for a similar success rate of 32 percent.