The Yankees really have more than one question mark at backstop

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka

The Yankees lost one of the most reliable backstops in the business.  For the last several years, the Yankees have had their ace in the hole, Austin Romine available to back up the injury-prone Gary Sanchez.  As a free agent, Romine tested the waters and ended up with the Detroit Tigers, where he will compete during spring training for the starting catchers spot.  Unfortunately for Romine, he will be playing for arguably the worst performing team in the league, having lost 114 games this past season.  Baltimore was the worst team in the East, but the Tigers were the worst in baseball, breaking the record for losses previously held by the 1904 Washington Senators.  Unfortunately for the Yankees, Romine’s departure leaves us with an injury-prone Sanchez and, for the most part, a backup catcher in the relatively untested Kyle Higashioka.  I’ll explain what I mean by that later.

In my opinion, Gary Sanchez is a huge question mark for several reasons.  One is his injury record.  In 2018 he was either day to day or on the IL four times during the season.  Once in May, twice in June and once in July for a total of 64 days.  In 2019 that total didn’t improve much, being away from the game 54 times, including rest days.  The reason this is a critical question mark is that this record is likely to continue.  In the past two years, although we may have lost a few homers here or there, we had a reliable, proven catcher in Romine. This year not so.  If Sanchez is out 50-70 games, it will put Kyle Higashioka behind the plate. Higgy did fine last year but has never been tested at the Stadium and on the road for long periods.

Also, we have the untested 40-year-old Eric Kratz that the Yankee recently acquired and is sitting at Scranton Wilkes/Barre.  The other question mark may have been answered during this past season.  In 2018 he had more passed balls than any primary league catcher, but this improved significantly during the 2019 season. He is young and is likely to continue to grow, and he already has a cannon for an arm.

Now back to why our backup catcher will be so important this year.  Gary will almost inevitably have more injuries, more specifically, groin injuries.  Groin injuries are quite common in baseball, but often severe in catchers because of the demands on their groin muscles playing in their position.  Catchers that have groin problems tend to continue to have them. Gary, in 2019 had seven injuries, five of them groin injuries.  According to the severity of groin injuries, you can be out a few days or in a severe case for weeks at a time. So with his history, we undoubtedly will see backup catchers more than we wish too.

As EmpireSportsMedia’s Alexander Wilson reported. There are two free agent catchers out there that the Yankees should look at.  Jason Castro of the Twins is probably the best catcher available and could even contend with Sanchez during spring training, for starting catcher.  He is a good defender and has some pop, he hit 13 home runs last year and drove in 30 in only 79 games and 275 at-bats. Castro is 32, so he probably has a few more good years in him.  The second option is Kevin Plawecki. He is only 28. He is a good defender with only two errors in 57 games. Hitting, he is not much of an improvement from Higashioka.

There are a few other options available, one is Russel Martin the one time Yankee, that we know can handle catching at the stadium.  At his age (36), his career behind the plate is pretty much over, but still has an occasional pop to his bat.  The downside to Martin is that he can’t throw out base stealers.  Another possibility is Baltimore’s backup catcher, Caleb Joseph, who is defensively similar to Sanchez.  A plus for him is that he catches runners at a 33% rate.  My personal choice to back up Sanchez is Martin Maldonado, who was Gerrit Cole’s choice of a catcher at the Houston Astros. Unfortunately, although not official, reports seem to indicate he will stay with the Astros.

The question over Higashioka could go either way; he might break down if used to frequently or may surprise us and have a break out season like Gio Urshela did this year. I may be putting more importance on Gary Sanchez’s injury history than is due. Still, at the same time, it’s believable that Sanchez could again be out for prolonged periods, placing Kyle Higashioka in a territory he is not familiar with, thus suggesting the need for another catcher in our system.

New York Yankees: Maldonado Or Higashioka As The Backup Catcher?

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka

On Thursday, it was reported that Austin Romine signed a one year, $4.5 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Romine will be going into a starting role with the Tigers, a role well deserved.  However, he’s leaving the New York Yankees with a decision on who the new backup catcher will be.

The team is reportedly interested in signing Martin Maldonado, a catcher on the Houston Astros in 2019 that worked extremely well with Gerrit Cole. Cole had a 1.57 ERA in innings that Maldonado caught him.

But at the same time, the team feels really comfortable using Kyle Higashioka as the backup. Higashioka previously served as the “third catcher”, primarily playing with the Railriders but getting called up in September and when Gary Sanchez hit the IL.

Which one is the better fit?

In my opinion, it’s Higashioka.  Higgy has spent a lot of time with Yankees pitchers, and you can’t make a decision to sign somebody based off one player. If they were to sign Maldonado, they would need him to fit well with all pitchers, not just Cole.

Both players also have a similar play style. They are defensive orientated and don’t have great offensive numbers. Higashioka hit .214 in 2019 and Maldonado hit .213.

Higgy has shown offensive potential, and has surprising power. In May, I saw him hit two home runs and drive in seven runs in a AAA win over the Syracuse Mets. He has the potential to have more of those types of games.

Maldonado is a bit older, 33, and will want more money than Higashioka is currently getting paid. Saving money on somebody like the backup catcher is ideal to have money to pay the big guns.

Going with Kyle Higashioka instead of signing Martin Maldonado as the backup catcher is the better move for the Yankees.

New York Yankees: It’s Time To Part Ways With Austin Romine

Austin Romine has been a staple on the New York Yankees roster over the past few seasons as the team’s backup catcher. He’s stayed healthy over the years, and has done a great job on both offense and defense.

But, he’s a free agent now, and it’s probably best that the team parts ways with him. It has nothing to do with performance, as he hit .281 with eight home runs in 228 at-bats in 2019.

The team has another catcher that they could use in Kyle Higashioka, and he’s shown some promise. He only bat .214 last year, but spent a lot of time going up and down from the majors to AAA, and had some nice numbers in the minors.

Higashioka has improved a lot since 2018 and will be even better in 2019. His arm has gotten better every year, and does a pretty good job calling games.

Since they have Higashioka, they should move on from Romine to save some money. He will probably want seven or eight million dollars, when they could instead go with Higashioka and only pay him around a million dollars. They could use some of the money saved to pursue Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole, or Anthony Rendon.

Moving on from Romine could also give him an opportunity to get a starting role elsewhere. There are several rebuilding teams that could use a solid veteran catcher to lead their team on and off the field.

Austin Romine has done a great job for the Yankees over the years, but it’s time to move on from him and go with Kyle Higashioka as the backup catcher.

The New York Yankees Shouldn’t Resign Austin Romine

The New York Yankees have several free agents this winter, and one of them happens to be backup catcher Austin Romine. Romine, now almost 31, had a one year deal worth $1.8 million. However, I think that the Yankees would be better off not signing him again.

If the Yankees don’t sign him, it gives him an opportunity so go to a different team and maybe even start. There are several rebuilding teams that could use a catcher, and his stats show he would do a good job.

He hit .281 with eight home runs and 35 RBIs in 2019 with one walk off. Romine has always called good games behind the plate, but isn’t the best defensively and has a pretty poor arm.

The Yankees would also be saving some money. Romine would probably want like $3 million for two or three years, and instead they could use that money to help pursue a starting pitcher.

And, the Yankees have another catcher that they could use as a backup. Enter Kyle Higashioka.

Higgy has served as the “third catcher” when Gary Sanchez is hurt and when the roster expands. He’s 29, but has bounced up and down for three years now.

He’s shown some potential, batting .214 in 56 at-bats this year and having a good year in AAA. But previously, he really struggled in the MLB and was even struggling in AAA at times.

I like Austin Romine and all, but it’s just time to part ways with him. He deserves a better role, and the Yankees could be saving some money and resources by not resigning him.

 

New York Yankees: Austin Romine has his options this offseason

The New York Yankees are fortunate enough to have one of the deepest farm systems in all of Major League Baseball – especially their catchers. Gary Sanchez has been the starting catcher for the Yankees for three consecutive seasons, and if he remains with the club for the 2020 season that won’t change.

Austin Romine has been in the Yankee organization his entire career and has been behind Sanchez for the starting spot, and it’s no question that Romine has some serious talent. It’s believed that if Romine chose to walk during free agency, he could land himself a starting role on pretty much any MLB team.

Being only 30 years old, Romine is young enough where he could land himself a nice contract. He slashed .239/.281/.366 on the year which doesn’t resemble how talented he actually is. Being the backup catcher doesn’t allow you to fully find a rhythm offensively since you’re only playing every few days.

The question is: is he infatuated with playing in pinstripes? Playing in the Bronx for the Yankees is a special thing, and if he loves it there’s a good chance he’ll stay put. I also think the New York Yankees like Romine as their backup catcher. If he wants to stay put they’ll most likely give him a good contract.

Teams that could be seeking a new catcher and potentially show an interest in Romine are the Astros and the Braves. Astros’ catcher Martin Maldonado is entering free agency and the Braves have made it no secret that they are in the need of a starting catcher.

New York Yankees get fantastic Edwin Encarnacion injury news

New York Yankees, Edwin Encarnacion

The New York Yankees lost both starting catcher Gary Sanchez and primary designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion several days ago with potentially dangerous ailments. Sanchez pulled his groin sliding into second base on a steal attempt, and Edwin suffered a strained oblique.

Those two injuries damaged other players throughout the season, including Aaron Judge and Sanchez himself. However, despite manager Aaron Boone not commenting on either’s condition, Encarnacion provided the status of his health.

“I’m almost ready,” Encarnacion said, as per the NY Post. “I don’t know if I’ll be 100 percent this week, but I think I’m at 80 percent.”

The initial test will be active batting practice for Edwin, who has yet to swing a bat after injuring the oblique. Gaining him back will give the Yankees a significant boost before the start of the postseason. The team will need all of the firepower they can get considering the number of injuries they have picked up this season.

Sanchez, on the other hand, has 11 remaining games to make a return and show he’s ready to take on playoff baseball. His status is certainly cloudy, and he could miss a good portion of the playoffs if not the entire period. He injured the same groin two months ago that forced him to miss 16 games (July 24-Aug 10). Using that same timetable, Sanchez would theoretically miss most of, if not all of the first playoff series.

The New York Yankees need Gary Sanchez to return:

If Sanchez is unable to play, the Bombers would likely resort to Austin Romine as their starter and Kyle Higashioka backing him up. Realistically, it would force the Yanks to carry three catchers into the postseason, which would take an extra slot away from a damaged outfield unit.

Luckily, they will gain back Giancarlo Stanton in the coming days, which will provide a massive boost to the hitting order and another defensive option.

New York Yankees: An Ideal Starting Lineup for the Post-Season

New York Yankees shortstop, Didi Gregorius.

Aaron Boone, the manager of the New York Yankees, has a fun, but challenging task of creating a lineup for the postseason.

The Yankees currently have the best record in baseball at 95-51, are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and have an 8.5 game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees have one more two-game set against the Rays, at Tropicana Field, near the end of the month (MLB.com).

With the recent news of Hicks possibly needing Tommy John surgery and Tauchman being out the rest of the season, that opens up some spots in the outfield on the postseason roster. Stanton is the candidate to get the starting spot in left once he comes back off the IL. Clint Frazier could see an increase in playing time as well and will most likely make the postseason roster with all of these injuries.

What should the Starting Lineup Look Like in the Post-Season?

Once everyone comes back from injury, an ideal lineup would look like this: Lemahieu (3B), Judge (RF), Sanchez (C), Encarnacion (DH), Stanton (LF), Voit (1B), Torres (2B), Gregorius (SS), and Gardner (CF). Even for the Astros pitching, that would be a tough lineup to get through.  The balanced hitting of Lemahieu and Judge will set up the middle of the order, where all of the power comes from. Then, the sneaky home run leader, Torres, will add value to the bottom-third of the lineup. Gardner, a player that always seems to make something happen, whether it’s drawing a walk or stealing a base, is a perfect nine hitter to set up the top of the lineup.

Some key players off the bench would be: Gio Urshela (3B), for his electric plays on defense and consistent bat, Cameron Maybin (OF), for his veteran presence and ability to everything he asked to do at a high level, and Austin Romine (C), for his ability to lead as a veteran and come up clutch in big moments at the plate. He also seems to bond well with the pitchers and gives them extra confidence the mound.

Also, for the ALDS, Boone should most likely have Paxton start game 1 with his recent success. Tanaka game 2, Severino game 3, and German open up game 4, with Sabathia and/or Happ, right behind Severino or German. Severino will need some time to get back to his full durability audit may not be this season. German has also thrown a lot of innings this year and they should be careful with his arm. This plan would allow The Yankees could be smart to utilize all of their options to keep everyone fresh out of the bullpen.

Using this strategy, Boone can help lead the New York Yankees to their first World Series in a decade.

What Austin Romine Means to the New York Yankees

New York Yankees’ backup catcher Austin Romine would be the starting catcher for pretty much any other MLB team except for a few exceptions. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft by the New York Yankees out of high school he’s spent his whole career in the Yankee organization and I don’t think he’s going anywhere anytime soon.

As the backup catcher, Romine only sees the field if there’s a day game after a night game or when the Yankees are giving Gary Sanchez a night off. He’s been behind the scenes much of this season but Romine is much more than a backup catcher. When Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound, Romie is usually the one behind the plate. Those guys just click together and it works. Not a beat on Gary Sanchez, just sometimes a pitcher and a catcher get in rhythm together and it just works.

Romine knows his worth along being a team player. In a postgame interview earlier in the season he said, “We just don’t give up, we keep fighting to the end. It’s just next guy up and let’s get the job done.” When asked about feeling pressured when he’s in he said, “No, we’re out here to do our job. When we take good swings and go at-bats, good things happen.” On top of being talented, Tomine is a team-first kind of player, and that’s why the Yankees value him so much.

The 30-year-old catcher signed a 1-year/$1.8 million dollar contract this season with the Yankees. For a backup catcher, that’s a pretty sizeable small contract. He’ll be eligible for free agency following the 2019 season.

This season he’s batting .268 with six home runs and 29 runs batted in. Romine has been in big spots this season too. He hit a 10th inning walk-off single to give the Yankees a 7-6 win over the Royals earlier this season.

Should The New York Yankees Trade Kyle Higashioka?

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka

Over the last three seasons, Kyle Higashioka has served as the New York Yankees third string catcher. He has come up and down when needed due to injuries or roster expansion. Each time that he comes up, he looks a bit more ready to take on more of a role with a major league team. Should the Yankees trade him to give him more of a chance?

Pros

Trading Higashioka would give him more playing time with his new team, an increased morale, and increased pay. Also, if you trade him, you could get a good return back. The Yankees could get more prospects or even a Mike Tauchman or Luke Voit type player.

Cons

Obviously, the big con is that you lose a good, up-and-coming player. Higashioka is a solid overall player, having a good and powerful swing while also playing solid defense.

With trades though, you never know. The guy you trade could become a star while what you get back disappoints.

Another Option

Instead of trading Higashioka, the team could trade Romine and make Higgy the Yankee back-up catcher. Romine has played well over the last few years, and is good enough to start on some teams. Romine would be a better option than any catchers that the Orioles have on their big-league roster.

Once the 2019 season concludes, the Yankees should make a decision and trade one of their catchers. Whoever they choose not to trade, they should make them the back-up to Gary Sanchez and let the other have a better opportunity on a different team.

 

New York Yankees: Adam Ottavino The Reliever The Yankees Hoped For

After several up-and-down years with the Rockies, the New York Yankees decided to take a chance on Adam Ottavino after one of his better years being 2018, and the risk is proving to be a reward. Through 18 and 1/3 innings, he boasts a 1.96 ERA with 24 strikeouts.

Monday’s example of his greatness

During Monday’s 7-3 win over the Mariners, Yankee middle reliever Jonathan Holder loaded up the bases, only getting one out.

Enter Adam Ottavino. He got Mitch Haniger to fly out and Tim Beckham to groundout, getting out of the inning unscathed.

That inning was definitely a turning point in the game. CC Sabathia had just came out of the game after fighting through five innings, and Ottavino was able to clean up the mess that Holder made. If those runs scored, it would’ve been a totally different game.

Just one bad outing

Throughout 16 appearances in 2019, Adam Ottavino has only had one bad showing, giving up three of his four earned runs on the season.

The game was on Easter Sunday against the Kansas City Royals. Ottavino gave up three hits and three runs as the Yankees blew a 5-0 lead. He gave up two home-runs in the outing, but luckily the Yankees managed to win on a walkoff from the bat of Austin Romine.

Otherwise, he has been fantastic for the Yankees. The only other run he surrendered this season was on April 8th against Houston.

The Yankees will continue to rely on him to be their set-up man as the Yankees enter a stretch of must-win games to try and take the division lead over Tampa.