Photo by Sandra Molinares for JSN

New York Yankees loaded with depth behind the plate

Tampa, FL --The New York Yankees' catching depth will be tested early this spring. Yankees' starting catcher, Jose Trevino, will be sidelined for a few weeks due to a strained calf. Aaron Boone announced the news at the Yankees' first workout on February 14th but added that Trevino is expected to be ready by Opening Day.

Trevino struggled through injuries last year, and he will try to turn the page and remain healthy this season. He is a great defensive catcher. In 2022, Trevino made an instant impact in the Bronx as he won the Gold Glove and Platinum Glove that season. However, his bat leaves a bit to be desired, with a career OPS of .636 in six seasons.

The good news for the Yankees is that their catching depth is among the deepest in their organization. The Yanks have an MLB-high of five catchers on their 40-man roster and invited several more to Spring Training. Boone spoke about the catching depth on his presser in Tampa. He feels really good about the Yankees' options, and he is especially excited about the spot Austin Wells is in.

Austin Wells has a chance to make the Yankees' roster and get a starting catching job. On Monday, Wells hit a home run off Marcus Stroman during live batting practice. He made an instant impression when he was called up to the Yankees in September of last year. His first MLB at-bat was a single off Houston Astros' Ace Justin Verlander on September 2nd.

Wells made one error in 158 MLB innings behind the plate and did not have one passed ball. His offense numbers were four home runs, 13 RBIs, and an OPS of .743 in 70 MLB at-bats.

Aaron Boone told reporters on the 18th that there was no talk of having Austin Wells work out at other positions this spring. "Right now, I just want to focus on our staff."

J.C., Escarra said that camp is going great, that he walked against Stroman twice, and that he’s caught Oddanier Mosqueda and Art Warren. Escarra also hit a home run against Ron Marinaccio in live batting practice on February 17th. Escarra, 28, spent the last two seasons in the Independent League (2022-23) and Mexican League (2023).

Escarra was signed by the Yankees as a minor league free agent in January. He also represented Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series before Spring Training in Miami. The Hialeah, Fla., native is a Cuban-American and enjoyed a nice homecoming during the Caribbean Series. His versatility could provide a path to making the Yankees roster.

Ben Rice, 24, is not on the 40-man roster, but he has risen through the system quickly. He's the Yankees 21st ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline. In 2023, Rice had an injury that forced him to miss May and June. He was called up to the Somerset Patriots on July 19. Rice dominated Double-A and was named by MLB Pipeline the Yankees' Hitting Prospect of the Year. 

Rice Season Stats: 20 home runs, 68 RBI, 12 stolen bases, and 1.048 OPS, slash line: .324/.434/.615 over 275 at-bats. 

Rice caught 37 games last year and played 18 games each at first base and designated hitter. His fielding percentage as a catcher was .983, and he threw out 11% of his runners. The Yankees selected the native of Cohasset, Mass., in the 12th round of the 2021 First-Year Player. With a strong spring, he could get consideration for a Triple-A promotion.

Luis Torrens27 was initially signed by the Yankees as an international free agent on July 2, 2012. The Valencia, Venezuela native has played 271 career Major League games over six seasons with the San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and Chicago Cubs. His career MLB numbers are 19 home runs, 79 RBIs, and .643 OPS in 732 at-bats. Torrens' defensive numbers are strong, with a fielding percentage of .996 in 1,122 innings as a catcher with only four errors and ten passed balls in his MLB career.

The right-handed batter began his 2023 season with the Cubs. Torrens played 13 games with them and five with the Mariners in September. He had four RBIs, three doubles, and seven hits in 28 MLB at-bats. Torrens played in the Venezuelan Winter League with Navegantes del Magallanes this past winter. He also represented Venezuela in the Caribbean Series and helped them win the Series. Torrens was signed by the Yankees as a minor league free agent on January 14.

Agustin Ramirez, 22, was protected from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. Ramirez played in Tampa, Hudson Valley, and Somerset this past season. He is the Yankees' 22nd-ranked prospect on the MLB Pipeline. Ramirez turned heads at Hudson Valley with a 1.144 OPS in 27 games. He also had nine home runs and 23 RBIs, which earned him the call to Somerset. Ramirez's season numbers at all three levels were 18 home runs, 69 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, and a .819 OPS. He caught 80 games and had a .991 fielding percentage.

Carlos Narvaez, 25, was also protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason. He is a good defender and a solid hitter. Last season, Narvaez got called up from the Somerset Patriots in May and spent most of his season in Triple-A with the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders. His combined numbers were 12 home runs, 44 RBIs, and a slash line of .239/.370/.397 in 343 at-bats. Narvaez had a fielding percentage of .982 and threw out 21% of his runners last year in 66 games catching.

After Trevino went on the injured list, Ben Rortvedt was tossed into the fire last season, taking over as Gerrit Cole's personal catcher. He caught most of Cole's starts as the reigning AL Cy Young winner recorded a 2.25 ERA while throwing to Rortvedt 13 times. He made his Yankees debut after battling several injuries the last two seasons.

Rortvedt played 32 games for the Yankees and had two home runs and four RBI in 68 at-bats. Behind the dish, he made two errors and had one passed ball in 212 innings. Rortvedt is out of minor-league options and could be a trade candidate before Opening Day.

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