Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What The Hell Is Going To Happen With The Catching Situation?

(Could this guy actually make the postseason roster?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

 Joe Pawlikowski already touched on this earlier today, but it's an issue potentially serious enough that everybody should have their say.  Long story short, the Yankees' catching depth has become what's known in the biz as a "fluid situation" over the past handful of days.

- Russell Martin has been out after taking a ball off the thumb on Saturday.

- Jorge Posada dusted off the shinguards and made an appearance behind the plate after Martin left Saturday's game.

- It's been confirmed that Frankie Cervelli did suffer a concussion after those 2 collisions at the plate last week against Baltimore.

- The Jesus made his Major League catching debut on Sunday, to OK reviews.

- Austin Romine, called up after Martin went down, started last night's game and did a decent job behind the plate while also picking up his first career hit.

With the flexibility that September roster expansion allows, the Yankees are covered for the rest of the regular season.  Romine projects as a Cervelli 2.0 at the Major League level, it's to the Yankees' advantage to get as many looks at Jesus as possible behind the plate to make a decision on how they want to use him long-term, and Martin's injury doesn't look like one that will shelf him long term.  And when it comes to concussions you really want to be careful with Cervelli, who has had a couple over the past few years.  Look at Sidney Crosby, look at Justin Morneau, and then sit the guy down for the rest of the year so he doesn't turn into a mush head.

But come October, decisions have to be made, and there are a lot of interesting scenarios that could play out when it comes time for Joe to pick his 25 men.  I think it goes without saying that Jesus will take Cervelli's spot on the postseason roster based on the merit of his bat alone.  But that still leaves the 25th roster spot as a wild card.  If it were me, I would roll Montero as the DH, Dickerson as the extra bench body, and Jorge as an extra bat.  But if Martin's thumb continues to be an issue, and the Yanks aren't convinced Montero can handle postseason catching responsibilities, that could open the door for Romine to be added.  Then the team would essentially be carrying 3 catchers (plus Jorge) and be severely limited in the late-game bench flexibility department.  Or the Yankees could cut another pitcher out of the 25-man and bring everybody.  Lots of interesting potential scenarios in play here.

The extra off-days during the playoffs will make things easier to manage, and surely factor into Joe's final decision.  But as the last couple days have reminded us, catchers are always an endangered species because of the position they play and their availability is always one foul tip or homeplate collision away from changing.

In Appreciation Of Chris Dickerson

(Swag.  Screen can courtesy of MLB.com)

Chris Dickerson is a dirty MF, huh?  Who knew?  I knew the guy was big, athletic, and an ideal late-game replacement as an outfielder or baserunner because of his speed, but that was an A+ home run swing last night.  That shot looked like it came off the bat of Barry Bonds.  And from a guy who's 6'3", 230, and looks even bigger on TV, why shouldn't it?  Dude looks like a goddamn linebacker!

And if you look at the numbers this season, small sample sizes be damned, Dickerson has been a valuable piece for the Yankees this year at the plate too.  In just 36 PA he's accumulated 0.4 WAR not only thanks to his athletic gifts that make him an above-average fielder and baserunner, but also thanks to him being serviceable with the stick.  Dickerson's line on the season, .333/.371/.485, .397 wOBA, 150 wRC+, is nothing to sneeze at.  His BB and K rates aren't ideal, but he makes the most of the contact he does make and generates good results (3 XBH, 8 R, 6 RBI).

I already had Dickerson as a shoo-in for the postseason roster for the obvious strengths he brings as a late-game option, but if he can continue to swing the bat well, his role could expand.  And with Nick Swisher dealing with elbow issues, this last few weeks of the season would be a great opportunity for Joe to get Dickerson some more time as an everyday guy and see if he can be a consistent contributor.  With what he's already done in limited appearances this year, I think Dickerson has earned it.