Feb 14, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees catcher Austin Romine throws during spring training at Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Expectations Should be Tempered as Austin Romine Joins Yankees

The New York Yankees have been hit hard by injuries in the early going and that trend continued with the news that catcher Francisco Cervelli suffered a broken hand in Friday’s win over the Blue Jays. The timetable for Cervelli’s return is 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, New York will recall Austin Romine to join veteran Chris Stewart behind the dish.

Romine has gotten a good amount of fanfare (probably because he’s property of the Yankees) in his professional career and I think that has caused many fans to be expecting that the next great Yankee catcher is about to join the lineup.

To borrow from Rick Pitino, Jorge Posada ain’t walking through that door. Thurman Munson, Yogi Berra, they ain’t walking through that door.

It was be understandable if you glanced at his .341 average and .815 OPS on the young season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and assumed that Romine is finally healthy and has matured into a productive hitter. While he may be healthy, his numbers this year are a mirage.

Romine was a second round pick out of high school in 2007 and has twice appeared on Baseball America’s Top-100 Prospect list. He made it to the major leagues briefly in 2011 after putting up solid numbers at Double-A Trenton. And by solid, I mean he had a .351 OBP. Apart from that, he wasn’t all that impressive.

Romine’s calling card has always been his defense and while scouts have projected that he may wind up developing an average hit tool, he’s never shown much pop and has trouble squaring the ball consistently. Part of the issues Romine has had at the plate can surely be attributed to the rash of injuries he’s faced, including a back injury that has lingered and cut into his development. The Yankees even sent him to the Arizona Fall League last year in hopes of just getting him some much-needed playing time.

Romine’s “success” at Triple-A this season has been quite misleading. His high OBP is fueled almost completely by a high batting average. In turn, that average is largely thanks to an insane .464 BABIP. He’s striking out at a much higher rate (26 percent of his plate appearances) than he ever has before and among his 14 base hits, only one has gone for extra-bases.

In other words, you’re looking at a guy who has gotten off to an extremely fortuitous start for the Rail Raiders, but one that will almost certainly come crashing back to Earth in the very near future.

If everyone else, or even most everyone else, were healthy, the Yankees could certainly carry a defense-first backstop and allow Romine to hopefully grow into a significant MLB role without a ton of pressure. As it stands now, however, with so many stars out of the lineup, Romine’s arrival is bound to be over-hyped.

Romine has every chance to be a serviceable part-time catcher in the big leagues, but that’s probably his ceiling. Somehow, I doubt that will be enough for Yankees fans.

Tags: Austin Romine New York Yankees

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