Yankees Believe In Austin Romine’s Defense

Not the next Jorge Posada, but maybe the next Russell Martin

Up until last week, the best offensive free agent catcher was begging for a contract from someone. If considering A.J. Pierzysnki, teams saw his 2012 offensive production, but also had to consider his defensive metrics, his  age, and his character issues. Personally, I was completely against the idea of  the Yankees signing him, but now that he’ll be a Ranger on a modest one-year deal, Yankee fans are free to second guess the club’s non-interest.

The organization has already signed four major league players to one year deals, and A.J. Pierzysnki would have been a similar low risk signing. At the age of 35, the catcher put together his best offensive season of his career, and was good for a 3.4 fWAR. In comparison, Martin received a three year deal after posting a 2.2 fWAR the same season. But age makes all the difference here, as Pierzysnki’s 2012 season was, and will likely remain, an outlier in his career. Even so, with Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, and Austin Romine prepared to start for the Yankees, can beggars be choosers?

The Yankees started listing their reasons immediately, and indicated that they particularly didn’t like his defense.  Blocking balls and framing pitches has grown more important to the organization since Jorge Posada left the position. Last year’s catcher, Russell Martin, has a great defensive history behind the plate, despite a down season. Martin’s consistently listed in the top tier of pitch framers, and there is reason to believe that his glove was quite a few additional wins over the course of a year. It surprised most people when the Yankees uneventfully let him sign with the Pirates, and now it seems that the team is optimistic about Austin Romine.

Romine has missed plenty of time of late, but at one point he was a top prospect in the organization’s system. At the age of 24, Romine has only played 13 games behind the plate in Triple-A, and his career minor league numbers show a .278/.333/.414 slash. As unspectacular as they are, Romine has shown an a respectable approach at the plate. In the 497 plate appearances in 2011, he increased his walk rate to 8.6% and lowered his strikeout rate to 16.1%. Though not advanced, his walk rates and strikeout rates have improved throughout his career. Though I wouldn’t expect much offensively next season, Romine knows how to draw a walk and avoid strikeouts, and he still has some upside with the bat when you consider the weakness of his position.

As stated before, the Yankees care more about defense, and the organization thinks very highly of Romine in this category. When asked about the catcher, Yankees’ senior vice president of baseball operations, Mark Newman, said, “He’s a plus, plus defender. He can really play the position.” Of course, Newman’s not going to say he sucks, but as a respected name in the industry, Newman can’t call all his prospects “plus, plus defenders.” In the same interview, Newman told Chad Jennings of LoHud that he was happy with Romine’s bat, but was especially impressed by his receiving skills.

Personally, I still believe that there’s a better chance the team trades for a catcher, than have Romine start the season behind the plate, but if they are truly confident in his defense, than it puts together pieces of the catcher puzzle. If the Yankees were willing to let Martin and Pierzysnki walk while expressing such little interest, Romine might be the heir behind the plate.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.

10 thoughts on “Yankees Believe In Austin Romine’s Defense

  1. TheOneWhoKnocks

    I’m not devastated by the Yanks passing on Pierzinski, he’s projected for a .315 wOBA this year (Cervelli has a career .311 wOBA), he stinks defensively and he’s by many reports he’s got an awful attitude and one thing the Yanks have prioritized in recent years is bringing in guys who have good attitudes and creating a positive clubhouse environment. I think that had more to do with them passing on him than his defense.

    However It would be a mistake to count on Romine. He’s certainly got the skills to make it as a major league catcher, but his health is a big question mark.
    I do think the Yanks will go through the season with Cervelli/Romine/Stewart taking their opportunities as they come, and then they’ll look to add someone at the trade deadline if needed.

  2. nyyankeefanforever

    There’s nothing “low-risk” about AJ at $7.5 million. At best, hitting 27 dingers at age 35 after a career high of only 18 seven years ago followed by declining seasons of 16, 14, 13, 13, 9 and then 8 was an anomaly he’s unlikely to come close to approaching again. At worst, it screams of something fishy that would explain why only one desperate team in full panic mode made him an offer in spite of his durablility and newfound power. Russell is a better bet to hit 27 HRs than AJ this year, and since power is all the clown brings to the table, the odds are good the Rangers bought themselves far more drama than they did production. Glad we took a pass…and I’m confident Brian will find a solid undervalued experienced catcher on someone’s scrap heap by ST just like he found Russell two years ago.

    • TheOneWhoKnocks

      I wouldn’t go that far.
      Pierzinski was one of the top 5 most productive catchers in 2012(Ahead of Weiters and Carlos Santana offensively) and to get him on a 1 year deal is a worthwhile gamble.
      Even if it was a flukey year (and it definitely appears to be) and he reverts back to his usual self-his usual self is still easily worth a 1 year 7.5m contract.

      • nyyankeefanforever

        The GM of every team in the market for a catcher who didnt bother making him an offer obviously disagree.

  3. As much as I respect Cervelli for his tenacity and ability to keep his pitchers focused and not stressed out, the number of concussions he’s incurred is a serious factor in his durability in blocking the plate from runners barreling in from 3rd base and chin music.
    Stewart and Romine have offensive issues. OBP% w/ RISP loses more 1 run/close ball games ESPECIALLY in the post season. The Tigers and Giants proved that in the ALCS and World Series respectively.
    My expectations with Toronto reloading and both Baltimore and Tampa being season long threats for the AL East title and wild card slot are not keen on the Yanks even getting into the play-offs in 2013. Solo home runs seldom keep a ball club afloat over the course of an entire season. Without a top tier catcher the caliber of Jorge Posada in his prime, the Yanks will have serious issues holding fleet base thieves and preventing the hit and run or double steal.
    You heard it here first Yankees fans… I am a realist and an analyst. The Orioles, Rays and Jays are faster, have more consistent young pitching and situational hitters capable of advancing a runner when called upon more consistently and will prove to be a great challenge for the Bronx Bombers in 2013.

    • JimmyH

      Not to worry. Our Yankee manager stated clearly last season, this team is a long-ball team and he’s not about to try to change that. We don’t need no stinkin’ bunting, base stealing or hit-and-runs !! :(

  4. Robert Jackson

    for a guy his size he is terrible hitter. He swings with his arms and does not use his lower body. If the hitting coaches don’t see that they shouldn’t be coaching. As a defensive catcher he is Ok.

  5. David in Cal

    I’m mystified by the Romine love. His minor league record gives every indication that he cannot hit major league pitching. His back problems presumably could recur. The comments about his supposed “plus-plus defense” sound like wishful thinking.

  6. Yankee Insider

    I know he won’t have a mike trout season but it won’t be bad at all and he’s fun to watch. I say he hits .260-.280 BA, 10-15 HR, 50-70 RBI which is a great rookie season. But if he does good this year and in 2014…. Then what’s gonna happen to Gary Sanchez? He can really hit so maybe they’ll be able to make him a first baseman. But he can also run and has a great arm so maybe a corner OF. But I guarantee one of these guys is going to be trade bait and Sanchez is the odd one out being that he’s only gonna be 21 in 2015 and they like defense better so basically we’ll just montero him. Also the montero move wasn’t bad because montero only hit like 15 HR or something and our DH throughout the year we had like 10 different ones hit about 60+HR. Plus we got a young pitcher that throws triple digits (hopefully he comes back healthy) and he has great breaking pitches and #2 or #3 type pitcher for when he cones up midseason and in 2014 when kuroda, pettitte, and possibly Hughes are gone.

  7. Chris

    I’m not a believer in him being a “plus, plus defender”. When I’ve watched him play he’s been good, but not elite, behind the dish and I’ve reports that say the same. As far as the bag I think he’s going to struggle pretty badly this season, the power just hasn’t come along to where it was originially reported and he seems to be lacking bat speed against top fastballs.

    I do think Romine will be a major league player but I wouldn’t be counting on him this year if it were me. If I had to guess numbers I’d say he ends up somewhere in the .230/.280/.380-.240/.300/.390ish range.

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