Yankees Spring Training Battle: Backup Catcher

Nov 7, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees will have to choose someone to be Brian McCann’s backup this spring. Considering he is getting up there in age, his workload must be kept in check, so the player who makes it to New York as backup catcher should get plenty of playing time.

There are three possible candidates for this job and all three have a real chance of getting it. Let’s see who out of Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine and Carlos Corporan will open the year in the Bronx.

First we have Sanchez, who is the youngest of the candidates (23) and has the most upside. He’s been on the radar since he was 16-years old and has showed enough maturity in 2015 to tap into his potential. His hitting potential and rocket for an arm are why the Yankees signed him for 3 million.

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Last year he proved scouts right by hitting .274 with 18 homers in 93 games while spending the year in Double-A and Triple-A. His defense also improved, as he showed off his usual plus arm with a 36% caught stealing rate, but also reduced his amount of passed ball to 2 from 10 the year before.

He also opened up some eyes in the Arizona Fall League hitting .306 with 7 homers and 19 RBIs in just 72 plate appearances. He was one of the best hitters in Arizona, leading the league in homers and tying for the RBI lead. He also threw out a stunning 61.5% of baserunners (16 of 26), making a huge impact on both sides of the ball.

He looks like he is major league ready, but Sanchez only has 35 Triple-A games under is belt. Because he got a called up in September, he also has some service time in the majors and keeping him down in Scranton for a few weeks could delay his free agency by a year.

The Yankees have to choose if it’s better for the kid to have him in New York learning from McCann and to have his bat in the lineup against tough left-handers or have him get everyday at-bats in Triple-A and gain an extra year of team control.

Then we have Romine who was once seen as a top catching prospect and has been in the organisation for a while. He was called upon to play a big role in 2013, playing in 60 games for the Yankees, but he wasn’t up to the task hitting only .207 and hasn’t seen much major league action since.

Feb 22, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees catcher Austin Romine (53) poses for a photo at Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
New York Yankees catcher Austin Romine (53). Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

He is now 27 years old and out of minor league options. It means that if he does not make the roster, he will probably go back on waivers and unlike last year when the Yankees cut him out in spring training, he will have the right to elect free agency and he probably will.

He was a bit better last year in Triple-A hitting .260 while playing catcher and even some first base. This experience could serve him well in New York as he could also be an other backup option for first base.

While his bat didn’t live up to the expectations, his defense is still solid which is the most important thing for a backup catcher.

Last but not least is Carlos Corporan, 32 years old, who the Yankees signed to a minor league deal in January.

He is a veteran with 232 games of experience at the major league level across six seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers .

Corporan has never been a strong hitter, with a .218 career average and an even worse .178 last year. But he’s a solid defender and is able to provide depth, experience and compete with the youngsters.

As most minor league deals, he probably has an opt-out built-in if he doesn’t make the team, maybe as early as the end of spring training. This means players like Romine, if he doesn’t make the team the Bombers would lose some catching depth.

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The Yankees have to take many things into consideration when they’ll choose McCann’s back up. They signed a few catchers to minor league deals including Sebastian Valle and Francisco Diaz expecting to lose some depth from this spring training competition.

Because of that, my pick would be to go with Sanchez as he could learn a lot from working with McCann, Tony Pena and Joe Girardi and would get enough of plate appearances against left-handers to provide value to the team from the offensive side as well.

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The other option is to pick either Romine or Corporan and have extra depth this season while keeping the extra year of control on Sanchez. It could be a good way to go for the Yanks as well, is it what you would do?