The New York Yankees open their 2011 MLB Spring Training Monday when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, Fla. The Yankees' catching situation looks much different this season than it has in a long time.
That is because Jorge Posada, backstop for several World Series championship teams and a five-time All-Star, is not penciled in as the starting catcher for the first time since 1998, when he took over the job from now-manager Joe Girardi.
When the Yankees signed Posada to a four-year, $52 million contract prior to the 2008 season they knew it was possible Posada would not last the full four years as a catcher. After watching Posada throw out just 13 of 85 would-be base-stealers a season ago (a measly 15 percent), commit eight passed balls and allow 32 wild pitches in 83 games the Yankees decided that time had come. Posada, a proud, hard-nosed player, might not like it. The decision, however, is hard to argue with.
The likely starter in Posada's place is Russell Martin, a fomer Los Angeles Dodger who signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Yankees during the offseason.
#0 / Catcher / New York Yankees
Feb 15, 1983
Martin, 28, comes with plenty of questions. After successive All-Star season is 2007 and 2008 Martin tailed off considerable the past two seasons. In 2010 he hit just .248 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 97 games as he was bothered by a hip injury. He also had offseason knee surgery. Martin did, however, throw out 39 percent of potential base-stealers a season ago, and has thrown out 31 percent over his five-year career.
The biggest question about Martin, however, might not have anything to do with his hip, his bat, his knee or his throwing arm. It might simply be how long he can hold Jesus Montero for the starting job.
Montero, of course, is the crown jewel of the Yankee farm system. At 21, he is ranked among the top five prospects in the minor leagues by most analysts. Montero's bat is considered big-league ready after a season at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre in which her mashed 21 home runs, drove in 75 runs and hit .289 with a .353 on-base percentage and .517 slugging percentage. There are still considerable questions about whether Montero is, or ever will be, a capable major league catcher. At some point, his bat is going to force the Yankees to put him in there and find out.
Also competing for a roster spot, and the likely No. 2 catcher, is Francisco Cervelli. An energetic young catcher who turns 25 this season, Cervelli probably profiles as a career backup. He is solid defensively, though he only threw out 22 percent of potential base-stealers a season ago (19 of 88). He simply does not hit enough. He has just one home run in 428 official at-bats. In 2010 he hit .271, but had no home runs, just 11 doubles, three triples and a puny slugging percentage of .335. Tough to see him justifying an every day job with those numbers.