Austin Romine has been a career backup at catcher, but thanks to injuries to Gary Sanchez the past couple seasons, Romine has had a chance to get on the field quite a bit. Romine’s numbers at the plate might not have impressed anyone during his first few years, but over the last two seasons, Romine has raised his production to about league average.
With Romine hitting the free agent market, we might have seen his last days in pinstripes. If so, he left after producing his best effort so far. He showcased career highs in BABIP, OBP, and wRC+, while defensively, he graded out slightly above average in pitch framing, allowed just six passed balled through 563.1 innings behind the dish, and caught 10 out of 33 runners attempting to steal a base.
2019 Statistics: 73 games, 240 plate appearances, .281/.310/.439, 8 home runs, 35 RBI, 95 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR.
Predicting what Romine could produce throughout a whole season might be one of the hardest things to do considering his performances come in spurts. He also made strides in 2019, arguably making it even more difficult. For starters, his plate discipline improved in a few ways.
Romine has always been an aggressive hitter, consistently placing above league average in swing percentage. This season, he was smartly aggressive, as his zone swing rate was a career-high 78.7 percent. Secondly, he generated the highest contact rate of his career since becoming the regular backup. Overall, Romine displayed a better awareness for pitches over the plate and put bat to ball more often than he has typically. He still was a little over-aggressive on pitches out of the zone, offering at them at an above league-average rate, giving him an area he can still work on going forward.
Romine was able to produce a career high in OBP, which was not aided by the fact that his strikeout percentage was over 20%, where it has been the last three seasons. Instead, his tendency to swing at and strike pitches in the zone helped him produce hits more. That said, his walk rate fell, so again, if he wants to take the next step offensively, he probably needs to cut back on swinging at bad pitches to further boost his on-base rate.
Looking at Romine’s batted ball profile, the most glaring thing is his ground ball percentage. Yes, it is a positive that Romine is able to make better than league average contact but if he’s putting the ball into the ground about 48% of the time, then the shape of that contact can still improve. Even so, over the last two seasons when he finds a way to put the ball in the air, his HR/FB rate has been better than ever. What has helped has been about a 10% increase in hard hit rate.
After the 2017 season, Romine might have not been a player on many teams’ radar, but with his production over the last two seasons for the Yankees, he might find a starting job somewhere. Romine has consistently been able to provide quality performances when Sanchez goes down. His power numbers might be his biggest weakness, but he does have 20-home-run power as a starter if he continues to be the player he has since 2018 and the ball stays the same. He might not be the best catcher in the league if he goes to another team, but Romine will be a positive contributor and will surely be missed in New York as a consistent backup catcher.