Dec
28

Believing in Austin Romine’s defense

By

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Not long before the Rangers signed A.J. Pierzynski, Jon Heyman said the Yankees were still unable to get excited about the long-time White Sox backstop. Despite their need for catching help, the 35-year-old who hit 27 homers last season just wasn’t doing it for them. Instead, Heyman says the Yankees are “looking to go” with Austin Romine behind the plate next year, the youngest of their four (don’t forget Bobby Wilson!) internal catching solutions.

Romine, 24, has had some of the blush come off his prospect rose these last two seasons due to back injuries. He’s appeared in just 111 games since 2011 with only 97 starts behind the plate. That’s a lot of development time lost at a crucial age, yet the Yankees are apparently open to using him as their primary big league backstop in 2013 because of his defense. Defense from the catcher position is something the team has become obsessed with in recent years, basically since they were able move Jorge Posada to DH full-time two years ago.

“He’s a plus, plus defender … He can really play the position,” said VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman to Chad Jennings last week. You have to take quotes like that with a huge grain of salt because of course an organization is going to speak highly of its prospects. There’s nothing to be gained by doing otherwise. Romine could be a terrible defender (he’s not according to various scouting reports) and the Yankees could be well aware of it, but they’d never admit it. Remember how they insisted Jesus Montero could catch in the show and then did everything in their power to avoid using him behind the plate in September 2011? Kinda like that. Actions speak louder than words.

The Yankees are unlikely to make a meaningful catching addition before Spring Training just because the market is barren at the moment, both free agency and trades. That could change in an instant if some team decides to unload some salary, but I wouldn’t count on it. Sending Romine to Triple-A for everyday reps while Chris Stewart and Frankie Cervelli handle big league duties would be the easiest solution for the club and possibly the best both in the short- and long-term. However, if they do take Romine north out of camp and use him as the primary backstop at the outset of the season, it would speak volumes about their true feelings of his defense. It would be a massive vote of confidence.

Categories : Defense

127 Comments»

  1. KofFH says:

    I just hope we can believe in his back…

  2. Mike myers says:

    Half full is the glass….

  3. 0_Fur says:

    This sounds awefully familair to Cashman’s “Bubba Crosby is my CF’er…” line.

    • Mike Myers says:

      I wish. But his wallet was locked away and I dont see any teams trading a catcher except the red sox…..

    • MannyGeee says:

      yeah, except even then you knew it was a bold face lie. This is more of a “Love the one you’re with” type line.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Stephen Stills for starting catcher! Only slightly older than Posada, and can still harmonize.

        • jsbrendog says:

          just saw csn….harmonize sure…sing….not so much…can still play a rip roaring guitar though. surprisingly enough nash and crosby can still sing.

    • Ghost of Joe Dugan says:

      Bubba Crosby was a 29 year old never was when Cash said that. Romine is 24 year old prospect who had been rated as the Yankees #2 prospect and a top 100 talent prior to back injuries. I fail to see many similarities.

      • Trollin' says:

        You fail to see the simularities in the Yankees claiming someone is there guy in the winter just to see it change before spring training? You fail to see the one similarity 0-Fur was trying to make because you were looking for many. You fail to see the similarities because it wasn’t written in crayon.

    • 0-Fur says:

      Just saying I’ve heard this story before. Being “the guy” in December or January could amount to nothing come opening day.

  4. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    I’d love to read an objective scouting report on Romine’s defense. I’ve seen Keith Law question this in the past.

    • RetroRob says:

      I do remember that. It was a couple years back. Seemed like he had questions about how Romine received more difficult pitches out of the strikezone, lunging or stabbing at them. Sounds like the opposite of what a catcher needs to have strong pitch-framing skills.

      That said, Law is the only evaluator I’ve seen with that comment, it was at least a couple years back, and it may be something that Romine has worked to improve. That’s what the minor leagues are about. I haven’t seen any evidence of that in games I saw him catch, granted not many, and I’m hardly an expert.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      One was posted like three days ago.

      Keith Law is a journalist.

      • Milt Toast says:

        JP Ricciardi sent Law to scouting school when he hired him in Toronto on Paul DePodesta’s recommendation. But, yeah, he’s really an MBA who discovered sabermetrics through Eddie Epstein, wrote for Baseball Prospectus and cornered Ricciardi at a Winter Meeting to give him his thoughts on the Rule V draft. I think he’s got valuable insights as a baseball writer but take his “scouting” pronouncements with lots of grains of salt. He’s a clever Harvard-educated guy who can fake a scouting report better than guys who’ve been doing it for 30 years. He left the Blue Jays because Ricciardi basically wanted him to work on marketing issues not baseball evaluation.

  5. Juke Early says:

    Cashman is trying to talk the Twins into Mauer for Grandy, Nova & Melky Mesa.

    • jjyank says:

      Please no. I assume you’re making this up.

      • Mike Axisa says:

        Listen, anytime you have a chance to add another $20M+ a year albatross to A-Rod and Teixeira, you have to take it.

      • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

        I’d trade Arod and Nova for Mauer.

        • Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)) says:

          I would too (and I still really like A-Rod) but why would the Twins? The only way they should/would trade the guy who is basically the face of the franchise is for salary relief AND prospects, good ones at that.

          • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

            The Twins likely wouldn’t do it though it would save them $23 million and give them a pitcher who could be one of their better starting pitchers with what, 4 years of control.

            • RetroRob says:

              Right. Beyond the fact that Mauer and A-Rod have no-trade clauses, why would the Twins trade one 20M+ AAV contract for another, when the one they have is for a player who is younger, healthier, has way less question mark, and is a fan favorite. A-Rod, for all we know, could be done as a MLB player if the surgery doesn’t go well.

              • Now Batting says:

                Would that be a bad outcome?

                • RetroRob says:

                  About as bad as can be. The Yankees would still be penalized the $27+M AAV for the next five years and they would still have to go out and spend additional money to replace his production, which even with all the time missed last year placed him toward the top of the league in 3B’man. So, yeah. If you’re a Yankee fan, it would be bad. Fans of other teams, it would be good.

          • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

            If Arod comes back and does well in the 2nd half of the season, I wonder if the Yankees could interest the Dodgers maybe by taking back Ethier’s shit contract. Ethier could at least fake RF in YS3 for a couple of years before moving to DH and he’d be helped by the short porch.

            • Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)) says:

              No thanks on Either, he’s a WAY over price platoon bat.

              • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

                So you think Arod is going to earn more of the $114 owed to him age 37-42 coming off his 2nd hip surgery than Ethier will earn of the $85 million owed to him age 30-35?

                I don’t love Ethier either but his contract isn’t as hideous as Arods IMO

        • jjyank says:

          I probably would too. But no freaking way the Twins do. And no way do the Yankees add another albatross contract to the existing ones.

          • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

            The only way I’d take on another long term big money contract on a diminishing player is if we dump one (Teix or Arod) in the process.

            • jjyank says:

              I would be okay with the concept (depending on who the player is, of course). But it still doesn’t help a whole lot with the budget. Besides, it’s not like we have some hot-shot 3B prospect ready to step in. Is A-Rod and Cervelli/Romine/Stewart better than Mauer and Nunez/Nix/whoever? I dunno.

              Regardless, that’s not the terrible proposal I initially replied to.

              • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

                I agree the goal should be avoiding those albatross contracts, not adding more.

                That said, I’d bet that the 29 year old Mauer comes a lot closer to earning his salary over the next 6 years than the 37 year old Arod does over the next 5 year.

  6. Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)) says:

    Lettuce Rome(ine) aboard the train to Austin (Romine).

    I’ll show myself out.

  7. DJ4K&Monterowasdinero says:

    I’ve seen Romine in ST, Trenton and with the Yanks. Average defense. Nothing special.

    I am concerned that he has less than warning track power and has yet to face major league pitching of any duration…

  8. mick taylor says:

    if the yanks do not wanna spend money, how about bringing back posada as a righty dh / coach to mentor romine

  9. Mike says:

    I can see Romine batting .205 with 3 hrs and 30 rbis by the all-star break. ( with average defense )

    • Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)) says:

      So…basically Russel Martin w/o power and dirt cheap?

    • Mike HC says:

      It would be pretty surprising if Romine can step in as a rookie and play Major League average defense. I don’t have much confidence in Romine as a rookie, but I do think in 3 years the Yanks might have something. Letting him play through his lumps in order for a payoff a couple years from now might be worth it considering the catching talent out there.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        I’m not going to talk up a guy I have questions about myself, but rookies have stepped in before and done respectable jobs in the big leagues. It’s been done. there’s also somewhat of a cushion.

        • Mike HC says:

          It is definitely possible. Maybe he made/makes some big time improvements this off season. We will get a much better idea after seeing him in Spring Training.

          But as of now, I just wouldn’t expect him to step right in and be an average major league defender. Maybe I am underestimating though.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            I think you are underestimating how much of C defense is about pitch framing. If you look at the numbers for that, there are young guys who do it just as well as veterans.

            He’s also got a sick arm, so all around I don’t see much reason to doubt his defense (besides the back).

  10. SRB says:

    IF the Yanks do take Romine north, it would also speak volumes about what they think about Cervelli! I watched him play in person most of last season in Rochester- Pretty poor- Plus, add in his career minor league numbers- Plus, add in the fact that he only really got a taste of the big leagues due to about six injuries ahead of him- I’d rather fail w/ Romine than alsmost certainly fail w/ Cervelli- Just my opinion

    • RetroRob says:

      Cervellli has never been viewed as a starting MLB catcher. He’s back-up material. Romine has been viewed and rated much higher.

      • MannyGeee says:

        except for when Pittsburgh wanted to trade for him 2 seasons ago. How ironic is that, huh? They almost traded Frankie to Pittsburgh (allegedly) for Brad Lincoln, and rumor had it that Cashman overvalued him so the trade fell through.

        2 years later, they sign Russell Martin and The Yankees are stuck with their dicks in their hands Frankie playing for Russell’s job in New York.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I believe that the rumor was the Pirates did not want to trade Lincoln for Cervelli. I’m about 90% sure you have that confused.

          There’s no indication that they viewed him as a starter.

          • Milt Toast says:

            They traded Lincoln to the Blue Jays for Travis Snider. Say what you want about Snider but his ceiling is in another building altogether compared to Cervelli. It’s academic anyway. Lincoln and Snider both suck right now.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

      .271/.339/.353 in 562 Major League PA. Not stellar, but not exactly horrible either. Despite leading the AL in errors for catchers in 2010, he still managed to put up positive defensive numbers.
      The Cervelli hate doesn’t make much sense to me.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        He graded out very poorly as a pitch framer, I believe. That’s a big part of C defense. Probably the biggest part.

  11. Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)) says:

    To all the people ripping/going to rip on Romine: I doubt they’re just going to hand him the job. Since the great Hughes/Joba/IPK debacle of 2008 rookies/guys from the farm have had to fight like tooth and nail to get a spot on this roster or wait for an injury. Shit, look at Dickerson, I think everybody agrees that he could be just as valuable as Ichiro, but the Yankees went with the major leaguer. Nova had to prove it in the bullpen in 2010 before being able to compete for a roster spot in 2011, same with Phelps this year. I personally think that if Romine gets the starting catcher gig he’s going to have earned it in Spring Training.

    • JAG says:

      Dickerson is 30 years old and has never, ever shown consistent success at the MLB level, let’s not group him in with the actual prospects here.

      • The Doctor (formerly known as G formerly known as Matt Smith formerly known as David Tennant formerly known as...etc) says:

        In 128 games in 2008 and 2009, Dickerson was worth 3.3 fWAR.

        He can be quite valuable in a proper platoon role.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      No MLB team agrees that Dickerson has enough value to even be worth a roster spot. That’s the implication of passing through waivers. For whatever reason, there is no indication that any MLB team believes in Dickerson more than the Yankees do.

  12. ClusterDuck says:

    Yikes! Romine has a history of back problems and Cervelli has a history of concussions.

    That said, if the Yanks think that Romine is a good defensive catcher than I say let him be the primary catcher with Cervelli backing him up.

    Anybody know if Stewart has any options remaining??

    • MannyGeee says:

      Stewart has zero options, which is why Frankie went down last season instead of him.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        I think that was just a narrative. I don’t think that the Yankees acquired Stewart, knowing he had no options, to DFA him. From what I remember he graded out very well as a pitch framer, Cervelli graded out very poorly. I think that’s the main factor.

  13. dan gen says:

    DONT WORRY CASHMAN WILL SIGN MITRE AND CONVERT HIM TO BACKSTOP

  14. turd surfer says:

    Talk up his defense to avoid questions about durability and ability to hit big league pitching but I like that they open to him.

  15. Robert says:

    Romine’s defense is excellent,just a reminder 2 years ago in Sept. he threw out Carl Crawford and stood his ground to tag out and flip Dustin Pedroia at the plate.

    His hitting will be a work in progress but it will be better than watching Russell Martin hit under .200 for most of the season!

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero says:

      You have got to be kidding. Romine’s hitting will make you miss Martin who although awful-hit 21 HR’s last year.

      Romine will not hit 10 in the majors and will be a Mendoza line hitter..

      And guess what? Martin could have thrown out Carl Crawford and flipped Peedy at home too!!

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Why are guys I consider rational, even when I don’t agree with them, going with absolutes as predictions? C’mon, man. You know better. Tell us it’s what you think, not that it’s a guarantee that it’s going to happen.

        • Milt Toast says:

          Well he used to go by the handle Monteroisdinero, didn’t he?

          • mustang says:

            BINGO!!!!

            Tiapia should know that for some people Romine’s stock automatically went down the minute he replace Montero defensively in September 2011. He should also know not to use the word rational in this situation with those people.
            .

      • ClusterDuck says:

        Martin’s BA has been going down every year since 2007. What does Martin hit in 2013 after hitting .211 in 2012?? And the odds of Martin hitting 21 HR’s in 2012 I think are long. Martin hit only 8 of his 21 HR’s outside of Yankee Stadium last year.

        Comparing Romine to Martin at this point in Martin’s career, Romine has plenty more up side potential.

  16. dalelama says:

    Face reality this guy is a stiff.

  17. dkidd says:

    lettuce pray…

  18. Darren says:

    It still feels like the Yanks are obsessed with a defense-first catcher because that’s what Girardi was. I truly get the value of having a great catcher behind the plate, but having a dud like Stewart instead of Cervelli seemed ridculous last year. I know what Cervelli’s numbers are, but Jesus, at least he could hit a little bit.

    With Romine, who knows? There’s nothing else out there so we just have to see what we have. Maybe he’s be better than expected. That;’s happened before. See: Cano, Robinson.

    {NOT THAT I THINK ROMINE IS GONNA BE LIKE ROBBIE!]

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I was almost dalelama-like during the ’95-’96 off-season when Buck got fired. I laughed hardest when the Yankees hired a retread as manager, and that the first move was to bring in a “good defensive catcher” instead of Mike Stanley or whoever it was in ’95 I loved (not Nokes….Nokes was gone by then, right?)

      The Yanks won the WS are started their dynasty that next season.

      Not that I’m implying we’re another dynasty here. Just saying things can go in a very different direction than what you expect sometimes.

      All this was brought on by your Girardi mention and nothing else.

    • MannyGeee says:

      also, Gardner didn’t come up as an uber prospect, and Melky the First was not a major prospect either.

      All I’m saying is MELKY 2 FOR TEH WINZ!!!!

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I don’t think it has much to do with Girardi. It is now understood how important a skill pitch framing is, and the league is generally moving more towards saving runs.

      Cervelli is an awful pitch framer, among the worst from what I remember. Stewart was among the best from what I remember. I doubt it’s a coincidence or that Girardi decided to make that trade. Like the Rays and other smart teams, the Yankees value C defense.

      • Tom says:

        Data please. Especially on Cervelli. Not too long ago you were telling us that “it is known” that Pierzynski was a bad pitch framer.

        You might have said pitch framing about 40 times in this thread alone. You have said it is probably the most important part of catching; yet you really have no clue if this is the case and it seems like pure conjecture on your end.

        There are just too many variables to reliably quantify the impact of pitch framing – even the guys doing the analysis will tell you that. Is it the catcher getting the strike? Or is it the pitcher? Is it the umpire? Is it the pitch type? Is it dependent on which side of the rubber the pitcher is on? The time of day (twilight, day game, night game, shadows)? Arm angle? How does the absolute limitations of pitch f/x’s accuracy impact the analysis?

        While there are some basic controls in Mike Fast’s work, the absolute # it spits out in terms of runs saved is pretty much not meaningful. Even he recognizes there are a bunch of varialbes that he can’t control for, yet people will see the output of the data and draw conclusions off of it.

  19. Robinson Tilapia says:

    If you like at Romine with those sunglasses, he looks like he could easily play Sitch to Girardi’s Pauly D and Russell Martin’s Vinny.

  20. pete says:

    Bp hats from last year only 9.95 on mlb.com

  21. trr says:

    I believe…..I believe….

  22. Blake says:

    Carlos Santana is about the only trade target that would be a big upgrade and long term solution…..but he’s cost a fortune and given the Yanks sudden obsession with catcher defense (with Mike mentioned)….I highly doubt they’d give up what it’s take to get him.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      It’s not a Yankee obsession. It’s a baseball wide obsession, because we now have better ways to quantify what were previously intangibles.

      I love how Yankees fans whine incessantly that they want to be run like the Rays, yet when the Yankees do what the Rays do (value pitch framing, platoon, don’t have a $20 million guy at every position…) fans also whine incessantly about that.

      We want to be like the Rays! Just don’t do a single thing the Rays do or we will be pissed! All we want to do is have the top picks to take David Price, Evan Longoria, etc.!

  23. Max says:

    MTPS:

    Jaso for Granderson? Then turn around and trade for Morse (assuming Laroche gets signed by WAS)?

  24. Herby says:

    I’m all for giving him a shot and seeing what happens…it might not be pretty in the beginning of the year, but how many rookie seasons start out great. It will be curious to see what Montero does in year two as Seattle’s primary catcher.

    • Deep Thoughts says:

      He won’t be. Jaso’s platoon bias means he’ll get the start against most righty pitchers. Montero slots as mostly DH, maybe he’ll catch 20-40 games, maybe play some first depending on how spring training goes and what happens to Smoak and Carp. Chances are they will pick up a Shoppach or other third option to soak up a few games behind the plate, at least until and unless Zunino is ready.

  25. Vern Sneaker says:

    Dickey, Berra, Howard, Munson, Posada . . . Romine(?. Probably not.
    Over time there have been a number of scouting reports online about him, all a bit different from one another, but if you read between the lines it comes out something like “average,” and that’s not even considering the back issue. But he’s supposed to be a hard worker in terms of improving his defense and his minor league batting #s weren’t bad, so if he stays healthy and ends up on the 25-man roster after spring training . . . here’s hoping.

  26. Jacob says:

    I have confidence in his defensive abilities but not his batting line. I once said he would hit something like .220/.300/.400 (I think that was what I said) now I feel more like .200/.290/.360, but I think that will be better than what I progect for stewart

  27. Pistol Pete says:

    Girardi’s obsession with defense and the Yankees new found cheapness cost the Yanks a Pieryznski Romine platoon that could have broken in Romine while staying competitive in 2013. There’s no reason to believe Romine can handle the everyday catching job in the Bronx. Our catching situation really really sucks.

  28. Tony_Turdner says:

    I haven’t really seen Romine play enough to judge, but his minor league #s don’t seem to suggest someone who can just step in and hit at a MLB level. He has played the majority of his milb time at AA and has only 21 games at AAA. This year in the AFL (SSS of only 18 games) he had a slash line of .222/.342/.286/.628 in 63 AB. In his one stint in MLB (Sept. 2011) he looked far over matched at the plate (again very SSS). His defense may well be far ahead of any offence.

    Another point to consider is that both Cervelli and Stewart are out of options. If Romine comes north out of ST you will loose one or the other (maybe not a large problem). I doubt either Cervelli or Stewart would make it through waivers. Someone will always seem to claim a cheap BU Catcher. Again, maybe not a large problem but something to consider. Cashman may be thinking of letting Romine get the everyday AAA job to start the season, while splitting time between Cervelli and Stewart on the MLB club. By say June, if Romine seems ready, he gets promoted to the Bronx to take over the #1 job and one of Frankie and Stewart gets put on waivers. It is hard to predict how much of a disaster those first two months of a Cervelli/Stewart tandem might be though.

  29. tom bronco says:

    Regardless of this emphasis on defense from the catching position,it’s importatant to get at least some production from the position,particularly if the lineup has 3 or 4 other spots at the 230 or lower range.Can someone explain the Chris Stewart thing to me?Kontos was at least a useful arm and seemingly could have been better packaged.I’m not a big fan of Cervilli but couldn’t he have given what Stewart did last season? Now ,one year later we’re considering him as the possible starter?

  30. Pistol Pete says:

    The catching situation is a disaster. Cervelli and Stewart are career backups at best and the more we see of them the worse they perform. Romine may be a decent defender but has had back issues and can’t hit. His numbers in double A were poor, he hit poorly in.his brief ML stint and he didn’t hit in the AFL. I think it’s safe to say he can’t be counted on to hit at the Major League level which makes their stance on Martin and Pieryznski so perplexing. If it’s a dump year why pay Youkalis Kuroda Pettitte and Ichiro, if not why not one additional step with either Martin or AJ. Just don’t get it.

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