With Spring Training games about a month away, the New York Yankees have a lot of sorting out to do. The pitching rotation, bullpen and infield all have question marks along with figuring out who will back up Brian McCann. The Yankees have three options in Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy. However, only one will begin the season as McCann’s extra.
The man chosen for the second-string position likely won’t see a ton of playing time with McCann being one of the most durable catchers in the game. McCann has played in over 100 games every season since 2006. Though, now with the DH spot available, the backup guy will still see a decent amount of action as McCann will be able to have more days off behind the plate while his bat will still be used. Here’s the breakdown:
This is the most reasonable choice for Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Despite a wrist injury and having to sit out the end of last season after being suspended due to involvement with Biogenesis, Cervelli took advantage of his time in the starting role in 2013. Cervelli played in 17 games in April before suffering a fractured wrist that required surgery and put him on the 60-day disabled list. Before his injury, the 27-year-old posted a .269/.377/.500 slash with eight RBI, three home runs and 12 runs scored on 14 hits. That’s pretty solid for a guy in his first year as a starter, especially in a league that is depleted of hitting catchers.
Cervelli recently avoided arbitration with the Yankees by agreeing to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal worth $700,000. This raised the Yankees luxury-tax payroll a bit and will likely help his chances of getting the nod as the backup.
Slightly younger than Cervelli at 25-years-old, Romine proved he is a worthy backup catcher in 2013. Once Cervelli went down with injury, Romine was called up to the majors and served primarily as Chris Stewart‘s replacement. The young catcher progressed at the plate as the season went along, hitting .111 in May, .217 in June and .333 in July. Romine recorded his first career home run in August and hit .303, but a concussion from a foul ball ended his season on Sept. 10.
2013 was Romine’s first long stint in the majors, and he could show what more he has to offer in a sophomore season if given the chance. It’s a usual trend for prospects to progress immensely in their second season after getting their first taste of action due to a mid-season call up. However, I believe Romine’s only real chance of starting 2014 in the big leagues is by beating Cervelli in spring training which would be hard to do. He will probably have to bank on injury or poor play from Cervelli to get another shot.
Murphy got his chance in pinstripes late into the 2013 season on Sept. 1 after rosters were expanded. The 22-year-old prospect moved up the minor-league ranks quickly in 2013 by hitting .268 in Double-A Trenton Thunder, and then he was promoted in June to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he bettered his average at .270. But the big show wiped all of those accolades away as Murphy struggled mightily to post a .154 average in 26 at bats with the Yankees.
The biggest factor with Murphy is his age. He is only 22-years-old, and he was thrown into the big leagues pretty quickly after having a solid minor-league season. Murphy’s low batting numbers won’t likely affect his chances of making the roster as his 16 games played is too small of a sample. He is still regarded as a top 10, possibly a top five Yankee prospect, and he is the best defensive catcher in the system.
I believe the Yankees have several viable options behind the plate. But now with McCann locked as the everyday player for the next five years, it’ll be interesting to see what the Yankees do with the abundance of catchers they have. Cervelli will likely get the backup role to begin the season, but anything could happen. Gary Sanchez is the team’s top prospect, but his future in pinstripes, along with Murphy and Romine, doesn’t look like it’ll become one of a franchise player because of the McCann signing. However, if one of the aforementioned catchers can secure the backup role, the Yankees could have some decent trade pieces come mid-season.