As we near the start of Spring Training games I'm going to take a look at the Yankees catchers this season. I'll look at veterans from Jorge Posada and Russell Martin, to top prospects like Jesus Montero and Austin Romine.
C/DH. Jorge Posada: This could be Jorge Posada's last season in the major leagues, or his last season in the Bronx for the 39 year old backstop, whose contract is up at the end of the 2011 season. Posada is pretty much a legend here, winning five World Series championships and being a key leader for the dynasty teams in the '90s, but now times have changed. Posada will more than likely be a full time DH with Russell Martin being the primary guy behind the plate. The question for Posada is will he be able to adjust in being a DH? He'll need to because the Yankees care about his bat more than his glove.
C. Francisco Cervelli: Cervelli may benefit from hitting coach Kevin Long's magic. Cervelli was brought up in 2009 because of his defense when Jorge Posada and Jose Molina went down. In that '09 season Cervelli batted .298 with one of the many walk-off hits during the championship campaign; but his 2010 season can best be described in one word: rollercoaster. Cervelli batted .360 in April, but come June, July, and August he batted .180, .214, and .233, respectively. In September, Cervelli was red hot again, batting .394, thus making his batting average for the season a solid .271. However, the side Cervelli is supposedly good at, his defense, isn't quite as good as advertised. Although he has ninja like reflexes behind the plate and a rocket arm, Cervelli had 13 errors in a limited role. He also threw out just 14% of base runners, a very alarming rate for a guy of his caliber. In 2009 Cervelli threw out 43% of base runners, and committed just one error in 40 games. It is still uncertain if he will or will not have a spot on the roster once the season heats up. The question for Cervelli is can he return to his '09 form defensively? Will he even have a spot on the team this year?
C. Jesus Montero: Montero is the top prospect in the Yankees farm system and the number nine prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to MLB.com's Top 50 Prospect list. Montero is supposed to have a plus bat because when he has a bat in his hand, he can be lethal; but his skills behind the plate are something he still needs to work on. Montero batted .289 with 21 homeruns and 75 RBI's for the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 123 games. The question for Montero is will we have more Jesus Montero references in the trade front, or on the field with the New York Yankees? Montero would be a key piece in a deal for an ace type starter, like Felix Hernandez or Chris Carpenter. Last year he was involved in trade talks between the Yankees and Seattle Mariners in a deal that fell through at the last minute for Cliff Lee.
C. Austin Romine: Austin Romine is the second Yankee catching prospect that has a small chance to make the club but, since he has less experience he probably won't get called up this year, but Romine has plenty of potential. Unlike Montero, Austin Romine is stronger behind the plate then he is with the bat, but can definitely still hit. Austin batted .268 with 10 homers and 69 RBI's for the AA Trenton Thunder. Like Jesus Montero, the question for Austin Romine is will he be subject of trade rumors as the season goes along? He's probably the second option, if not the third Yankee catching prospect option. Gary Sanchez, another Yankee catching prospect, is on the MLB.com Top 50 Prospects list while Romine is not. I have a feeling by the time July 31st passes one of these guys will be in another uniform while an ace comes to town.
C. Russell Martin: Because of Jorge Posada's age and ineffectiveness behind the plate, Francisco Cervelli's lack of bat, and the lack of experience from Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, GM Brian Cashman brought in the former Dodger to be the primary catcher. Russell Martin had a rough season last year in LA suffering a hip injury while batting just .248 in 97 games. However, Martin's play behind the plate is the reason why he was brought in after he threw out 39% of the runners who tried to steal against his team. Since the Boston Red Sox have speedsters Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury on their team it is key that Martin can keep that up. The question for Martin is, how will he be able to handle New York? Martin played in relaxed Los Angeles, how will he be able to handle the scrutiny of New York? Also, Russell Martin will have to deal with his knee injury that could force him to miss his first spring training game. That will be another thing to watch closely with Martin.
There you have it. Those are the Yankees catchers this season, from future hall of famer Jorge Posada to guys like Jesus Montero and Austin Romine who may or may not make next years catching preview article if they are still in the Yankees organization. Next time I'll break down the Yankees starting pitchers. Stay tuned!