Last season, the Yankees catchers position was among the worst in all of MLB. Collectively Yankee catchers hit .213/.287/.298/.585 with a 61 wRC+ and a .266 wOBA.
The Yankees solved that problem for this season by signing Brian McCann. McCann is one of the best all around catchers in MLB and should be able to take advantage of the short porch in right field. Also, he should be a good leader going forward in a time when the Yankees will be looking for new leaders.
McCann will be a huge upgrade over Chris Stewart and as long as he stays healthy he will be a key cog in the middle of the order. Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy and Francisco Cervelli are three intriguing options to backup McCann. This will be one of the key battles to watch in spring training.
Cervelli is the only one of the three without minor league options, so if he loses the job he becomes trade bait. However, Brian Cashman recently stated that does give Cervelli an edge over Romine and Murphy.
Cervelli was having a great April for the Yankees last season before breaking his hand on a foul tip. He hit for much more power than he ever has before, as he hit three home runs and had a .231 ISO. His ISO from 2009-2011 was .089 and had five home runs combined in those three seasons. We later found out why, as Cervelli was suspended 50 games by MLB for using PEDs.
Last April was definitely the outlier in Cervelli’s career, as his career batting line is .271/.343/.367/.710. The batting average is good, but it is mostly an empty batting average with a career .319 wOBA and a 93 wRC+. Cervelli’s defense has never been great either, and he has only thrown out 27% of base runners for his career.
After Cervelli got injured Romine became Stewart’s backup and struggled for the majority of the season. He finished with brutal hitting numbers, but over the second half of the season Romine hit .271/.343/.407/.750 (106 wRC+). You hope that improvement can carry over into the 2014 season because Romine’s defense was pretty solid.
Murphy came up with the Yankees for September call ups and is one of the top prospects in the Yankees system. Baseball America ranked Murphy 4th among Yankees prospect and FanGraphs ranked him 2nd.
Murphy posted a .773 OPS between Double- A and Triple-A last season while improving his defense. He will not ever be a big home run hitter, but he has a solid line-drive swing and has gap power, which is fine for a catcher.
Murphy has more potential than Romine, so I would like to see him get more playing time at Triple A. Having Romine and Murphy both at Triple- A would stunt their growth. Also, what would you do if and when you want to promote Gary Sanchez?
So, Romine should be the backup and Cervelli traded. I cannot see Cervelli putting up numbers again like he did April of last season. Murphy will get plenty of playing time at Triple- A and would be a good catcher to call up if an injury strikes.