Yankees add defensive maestro at catcher to supplement injuries

Nick Ciuffo, yankees
May 10, 2019; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Nick Ciuffo (19) during the sixth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have been losing catchers at an astronomical pace this off-season due to injury. To start, top catcher prospect Austin Wells suffered a broken rib, knocking him out for the entire spring. Ben Rortvedt underwent surgery to correct an aneurysm in his shoulder which was bothering his finger.

To make matters even worse, Josh Breaux suffered an elbow injury that will likely keep him out for spring training as well. With just Kyle Higashioka and Jose Treviño featuring as the only healthy catchers on the roster with MLB experience, the Yankees felt the need to bring in reinforcements.

[su_posts template=”templates/list-loop.php” posts_per_page=”3″ tax_term=”1622326″ offset=”1″ order=”desc”]

The Yankees signed Nick Ciuffo to help out:

On Tuesday afternoon, the Bombers announced the signing of Nick Ciuffo, a 28-year-old lefty that has major league experience. The former first-round pick from the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2013 has only played 21 MLB games, struggling considerably in the batter’s box.

Last season with the Chicago White Sox’s Triple-A squad, Ciuffo featured in 42 games, hitting .277 with a .325 OBP, five homers, and 20 RBIs. He hosted a 31.1% strikeout rate and a 5.3% walk rate, enjoying a 96 wRC+. However, the Yankees didn’t sign Ciuffo to be an offensive weapon but rather a defensive maestro who can fill in as a very last resort.

Ciuffo has thrown out 43% of base stealers in 414 career minor-league games. With good arm talent behind home plate, Ciuffo has some value, but the Yankees prefer to go in a different direction with some of their homegrown players once they return to full health.

The Yankees had high hopes for guys like Austin Wells, who is also a lefty bat that offers the luxury of offensive production from the catcher position. Defensively, he’s not the soundest player, but he took significant steps forward in 2022 regarding his caught-stealing percentage and passed balls allowed.

In the meantime, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ciuffo earned some opportunities with the spring squad over the next few weeks, getting a bit of experience under his belt and assimilating with the Yankees team. He will likely start the season in Triple-A. Unless injuries arise early on in the year, I wouldn’t expect him to be with their organization very long.