John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine will be competing in spring training to be Brian McCann’s back-up at catcher. Murphy, who will be 24 in May, has the advantage because he was the one chosen to be the back-up catcher last season when Francisco Cervelli was put on the 60-day disabled list because of his hamstring injury.
Romine, who is already 26, was not very impressive when he filled in as Chris Stewart’s back-up in 2013. In 135 at-bats (60 games), Romine had a .207 average with one homer, 10 RBIs, a .255 OBP and 37 strikeouts. He has also been called up for short stints in 2011 and 2014. In 76 games (181 plate appearances), he has a .201 average with one homer, 11 RBIs, 10 doubles, 46 strikeouts and a .281 SLG%. On the defensive side, he has four errors and has only thrown out 24% of potential stolen base attempts.
Going into the 2010 season, Romine was rated the Yankees’ second best prospect, according to Baseball America. In the 2010 season, Romine was a participant in the All-Star Futures Game, which is for the best up-and-coming players in baseball. However, he has obviously not developed as anticipated.
On the other hand, Murphy had a .284 average with one homer, nine RBIs, four doubles and a .370 SLG% in 81 at-bats (32 games). His eight-game hitting streak from the end of April to the middle of May included three multi-hit games, which proves that he can help the team offensively for a sustained stretch of games. In his 48 games between 2013 and 2014, he has a .252 average with one homer, 10 RBIs, five doubles and a .327 SLG%.
Murphy has also produced better on defense than Romine. He has one error and his caught stealing percentage is 28%. (His CS% was 17% in 2014) League average for a catcher last season was 27%, which is basically the same as his CS% was in the minors (26%).
Brian McCann will ideally play in 140 games like he did last season, which means that the back-up catcher will not have much impact. In addition to McCann’s off days, he will be the DH for some games giving the back-up additional time behind the plate.
Murphy should and most likely will get the edge over Romine because he hits for a higher average, is more consistent, is more reliable behind the plate. The back-up catcher should be able to be productive when called upon while helping the team win a few games and that’s exactly what Murphy can do.
Romine is out of options, which means that he can’t go to Triple-A Scranton without passing through waivers. He will be trying to impress the Yankees in spring training, and competition is always a plus, but Romine hasn’t proved to be an asset on the major league level. Romine will make more sense starting the year with Triple-A Scranton or with another team.