With roster expansion comes exciting players emerging from the farm, at least in most cases. That is true for the Yankees, as they'll be calling up catching prospect JR Murphy from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre today. The righty backstop has done very well in both Double-A and Triple-A this season, hitting a combined .269/.347/.426 across 108 games and 468 plate appearances. That type of offense behind the plate is something the Yankees could sorely use.
Even with Austin Romine's hot surge behind the dish the past month, Yankee catchers are sporting just a .228/.299/.324 line and a wRC+ of 71 on the season, good for 26th in the majors, ahead of just the Mariners, Blue Jays, Marlins, and White Sox. One would think that calling up JR Murphy, who posted wRC+'s of 117 and 116 in Double-A and Triple-A this season, respectively, should have been a move that was made a while ago. Adding someone like Murphy to the roster would be a welcomed addition; he can step right in, become the everyday catcher, and finally fix the black hole behind the plate, but I'm not so sure that will happen.
The Yankees love Chris Stewart. That is no secret. They love his so-called defensive "skills" behind the plate, they love his "veteran leadership," (at least that's what noted Chris Stewart defender John Flaherty said during yesterday's telecast), and they love how he handles the pitching staff behind the plate. Even with Romine hitting .353/.433/.529 in his last 61 plate appearances (small sample size, I know), Stewart continues to get the majority of the at-bats behind the plate. Why Romine hasn't taken the reins from Stewart is beyond me. Maybe they don't like Romine's defense. Maybe they really, really love Stewart's defense, despite his offensive shortcomings. Or maybe they're afraid Romine will re-injure his back, an injury that cost him nearly all of 2012, if they give him regular at-bats. We may never know. Because of this, it's hard seeing Murphy getting regular at-bats, or even a backup's worth of at-bats, when he gets promoted.
I don't know if JR Murphy is ready to step in full-time just yet. Offensively, he appears to be ready. There's no doubt about that. Defensively, at least in terms of throwing out base runners (37% success-rate), he might be ready, but we all know throwing out base runners doesn't tell the entire story. He also has 13 passed balls in 105 games (0.12 passed balls per game). Chris Stewart, who has been ridiculed for his eight passed balls in 90 games (0.088 passed balls per game), has also committed just two errors, while Murphy has committed 10. Of course these metrics may not give us the clearest of pictures in terms of catcher defense, but, on the surface, it wouldn't be a surprise if Murphy were treated just like a typical third catcher the rest of the way.