Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yankees Catching

I will dedicate a blog post to each position for the New York Yankees. In these posts, I will be discussing organizational strengths at each position and how they will be affected by minor leaguers coming up through the system. With my first post, I will hone in on the Yankees catching situation and what it will look like in the long term, post Russell Martin.

Austin Romine
The Yankees currently have Russell Martin at catcher. Martin has been great for the Yankees in his first season in 2011. He threw out 30% of potential base-stealers, something that Posada was not especially good at doing. He hit for power, mashing 17 home runs and provided stability behind the plate for over 120 games. There is no doubt that the arbitration-eligible catcher will be back in pinstripes in 2012, judging from comments made by Brian Cashman. However, if the Yankees do not lock Martin up to a long-term deal, which they won't, they need to have the stability at the catching position that they had when Jorge Posada was squatting behind the plate for most of 15 seasons. The organization is stacked with an embarrassment of catching prospects which include Austin Romine and even further down in the system, Gary Sanchez. After Martin becomes a free-agent, the Yankees need to look closely at making Romine their every day catcher. The AAA player had a taste of big-league time when he was called up in September, but needs to further develop his hitting skills. Before the Yankees commit to making Romine their every day catcher, they need to gradually set him into the role of back-up catcher. When Jorge Posada was coming up, Joe Girardi was the Yankees catcher and Girardi taught Posada the ropes of how to catch a big-league staff. Over the last three years, the Yankees back-up has been Francisco Cervelli, a terrible defensive catcher who is a singles hitter. If the Yankees want Austin Romine to be successful at the big-league level, catching the likes of CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda, they need to let him break camp with the Bombers to get a taste of life in the majors. Although Francisco Cervelli is a pro at fist-pumping, he needs to get traded for a similar player at a different position or as a complementary piece for a big-time pitcher. Cervelli, not Martin, is blocking Romine's future with the Yankees because the Yankees are opting to go with the guy with more big-league experience rather than with a new guy who needs to mature. For that to happen, I don't see any other option but parting ways with Cervelli. Sanchez still has a long way before he hits the majors which would give Romine plenty of opportunities to prove himself as a legitimate defensive catcher who can handle the bat and hit .280 consistently. What actually happens though, remains to be seen.

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