Sherman: Rockies and White Sox keeping an eye on Cervelli

Via Joel Sherman: The Rockies and White Sox are among the teams keeping an eye on Francisco Cervelli prior to the trade deadline. All of his recent playing time is not a showcase, however. “You showcase in Spring Training, not now when you are trying to win games. We are just putting our best team on the field while [Mark Teixeira] is out,” said Brian Cashman.

Cervelli, 28, is hitting .311/.354/.443 (121 wRC+) in 65 plate appearances around a Grade II hamstring strain this year. The White Sox were said to be watching him back in Spring Training and the Yankees have reportedly asked about lefty John Danks, but it’s unclear if there’s any kind of match there. Sherman says the Yankees also like Rockies lefty Jorge De La Rosa, but Colorado is asking for way too much in return.

The Yankees have some upper level catching depth to spare but that doesn’t mean they should give it away. Remember, Cervelli is injury prone and Austin Romine has faded. The depth isn’t as great as it appears. Cashman did a really excellent job of getting Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley for pennies on the dollar, so maybe Cervelli winds up being part of a similar trade within the next few days. We’ll see.

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2014 Midseason Grades: The Catchers

Even though it is not technically the halfway point of the season — the Yankees are 58% of the way through the 2014 season, in case you’re wondering — there is no better time to review the first half than the All-Star break. Over the next few days we’re going to hand out some real simple and straightforward grades, A through F, for the catchers, infielders, outfielders, rotation, and bullpen. These grades are totally subjective. Let’s start with the backstops.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Brian McCann — Grade D

If the Yankees wanted a defensively sound catcher with a .294 OBP and an 83 wRC+, they could have simply played on of their young upper-level guys everyday instead of signing McCann to a five-year, $85M contract. His first half was a colossal disappointment overall, especially offensively. McCann’s glovework and apparent leadership guiding the pitching staff are the reasons I’m giving him a D rather than a straight F.

From 2010-13, McCann posted either a 122 or a 123 wRC+. The one exception was the 2012 season, when he managed an 87 wRC+ while battling a right shoulder labrum injury that required offseason surgery. When healthy, he (very) consistently produced at the plate in recent years. This year though, McCann comes into the break with a .239/.294/.377 (83 wRC+) batting line, which ranks him ninth out of the ten catchers qualified for the batting title (only Dioner Navarro has been worse). Even with his strong first half-ending road trip, he’s been that bad overall.

Unlike offense, catcher defense is a very thing to quantify even with all these fancy stats we have today. StatCorner says McCann has one again been an excellent pitch-framer, and he rates right in the middle of the pack when it comes to allowing wild pitches and passed balls. I don’t think that’s been a problem. I mean, we watched Jorge Posada for a very long time, we know what it looks like when a catcher struggles to keep the ball in front of him. Considering all the nasty breaking and offspeed pitches on the staff — Masahiro Tanaka‘s and Hiroki Kuroda‘s splitters, David Robertson‘s and Dellin Betances‘ curveballs, Shawn Kelley‘s slider, etc. — I have no complaints about McCann’s receiving work at all. He’s been solid, as expected.

One thing we can measure is the rate at which a catcher throws out attempted base-stealers, and McCann has gunned down 21 of 48 runners, or 43.8%. That’s outstanding. It’s fifth among catchers with at least 300 innings behind the plate and second only to (who else?) Yadier Molina among the 16 guys who have caught at least 500 innings. McCann came into the season with a below-average career 23.8% throw-out rate. Is this a fluke? I don’t think so. I think this is Joe Girardi‘s and Tony Pena’s work. They have helped some others improve their throwing in the past (Frankie Cervelli, most notably) and it appears they helped McCann this year. He might not sustain a 43.8% throw-out rate, that’s pretty high, but I don’t think the improvement is dumb luck.

Overall, McCann has undeniably been a disappointment this season. He was expected to provide not just more offense than he’s given, but a lot more. He has not been able to fully take advantage of the short porch in right, perhaps because he’s been focused on hitting to the opposite field to beat the shift — his 20 opposite field hits are already more than his total from 2011 (14), 2012 (15), and 2013 (19). Given his overall lack of production, maybe it’s best for McCann to be himself and focus on ripping the ball to right. Trying to beat the shift seems to be dragging down his offense overall. The Yankees need more from McCann in the second half. There’s zero doubt about it.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Francisco Cervelli — Grade C

The first half was a typical first half for Cervelli. He showed enough to keep you interested with the bat, hitting .273/.333/.364 (95 wRC+) in 48 plate appearances. He also threw out some attempted base-stealers, four of twelve (33.3%) to be exact. And he got hurt, missing two months with a Grade II hamstring strain. Cervelli actually played more games before getting hurt last April (17) than he did in the first half this year (16). I can’t possibly go any higher than a C because of the injury and missing so much time. Cervelli is a perfectly cromulent backup catcher for a team with a clear number one (in theory) like McCann. I feel he has performed exactly as expected when healthy.

John Ryan Murphy — Grade C

When Cervelli got hurt, Murphy got the call and showed flashes of why he’s expected to one day be an everyday catcher. He started off very well with that bat before slowing down and finishing his cameo with a .286/.308/.365 (85 wRC+) batting line in 63 plate appearances. Murphy threw out two of ten attempted base-stealers and did allow eight passed pitches in 159.2 defensive innings, so the superficial defensive stats aren’t all that impressive. He looked very much like a young catcher getting his first extended taste of the show. There’s a decent chance Murphy will be traded in the coming weeks, but right now he is a capable backup catcher stashed in Triple-A.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Austin Romine — incomplete

Yes, Romine did actually spend some time with the big league team this season. The Yankees called him up and briefly carried three catchers when Mark Teixeira landed on the 15-day disabled list with his hamstring injury in April. Romine spent four days with the team, played two innings behind the plate in a blowout and struck out on seven pitches in his lone plate appearance. That’s it. Romine’s prospect shine has dimmed considerably over the last year or two, and he is currently a part-time first baseman/Murphy’s backup in Triple-A.

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The bar behind the plate is rather low these days, so even with McCann being such a big disappointment, Yankees’ catchers still rank only 19th out of the 30 teams with an 85 wRC+ this year. I thought it would be worse. They have collectively been very good defensively, throwing out 38.6% of attempted base-stealers (third best) while allowed one passed pitch every 22.2 innings (15th). StatCorner says McCann, Cervelli, and Murphy have all been better than average pitch-framers as well and I buy it based on the eye test.

The Yankees just need McCann to hit more, that’s it. Cervelli staying healthy would be nice too, if for no other reason than possibly upping his trade value. On paper, this should be one of the best and most productive two-way catching units in baseball. They’ve gotten the defensive value in the first half. Now they need to offense to catch up in the second half.

Yankees activate Francisco Cervelli, send John Ryan Murphy to Triple-A

As expected, the Yankees have activated Frankie Cervelli off the 60-day DL, according to Mark Feinsand. John Ryan Murphy was sent to Triple-A Scranton in the corresponding move. The Yankees already had an open 40-man roster spot for Cervelli, so no other move was needed. The 40-man is now full.

Cervelli, 28, missed two months with a Grade II hamstring strain. He went 3-for-16 (.188) with a double in five games before getting hurt. The Yankees had Cervelli play some first base during his rehab assignment, so he could see time there this summer. The 23-year-old Murphy went 18-for-63 (.286) with a homer in 24 games as Brian McCann‘s temporary backup. If he doesn’t get traded at the deadline, we’ll see Murphy in September or when Cervelli gets hurt again, whichever comes first.

Hoch: Beltran, Cervelli play in Extended Spring Training games

Via Bryan Hoch: Carlos Beltran played in an Extended Spring Training game earlier today, his first game action since landing on the disabled list with a bone spur in his elbow. He went 0-for-3, but results don’t really matter. “The elbow felt good,” he said. Beltran said the plan is to play two more ExST games before rejoining the Yankees when they leave for their road trip at the end of the week. Good news.

In other news, Frankie Cervelli also played in the same game as Beltran, according to Hoch. Cervelli went 1-for-2 with a double and a walk. It was his first game action since suffering a hamstring injury in April. He is eligible to be activated off the 60-day DL on June 14th, so less than two weeks away. With John Ryan Murphy playing so well as Brian McCann‘s backup, there’s no reason to rush Cervelli back.

Yankees call up John Ryan Murphy and Scott Sizemore

The Yankees have called up catcher John Ryan Murphy and infielder Scott Sizemore, the team announced. To make room on the 40-man roster for Sizemore, Frankie Cervelli (hamstring) was placed on the 60-day DL.

Murphy, 22, was off to a 5-for-26 (.192) start in seven games with Triple-A Scranton, though three of the five hits were doubles. If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now: he’s ahead of Austin Romine on the organizational catching depth chart. Just sitting on the bench and going through the various scouting meetings will be a good learning experience for Murphy.

Sizemore, 29, was hitting .344/.436/.500 (160 wRC+) with three doubles and a triple in ten games down in Triple-A. He has struck out in 41.0% of his plate appearances, however. Sizemore can play second and third bases, giving the team some extra depth and protection in case Derek Jeter (quad) and Brian Roberts (back) continue to deal with their nagging injuries.