Before May of this past season, there was a joke around here and other parts of Yankees internet that Ben Rortvedt did not actually exist. The third piece of the trade with the Twins that brought Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa to New York, Rortvedt was seemingly acquired to be the backup catcher in 2022.
However, he got injured that spring , and wasn’t ready for the start of the season. In his place, the Yankees acquired Jose Trevino, who took the bull by the horns and put in an All-Star first half. Rortvedt suddenly found himself as the third string catcher, and playing in Triple-A in 2022 and the start of 2023.
Eventually, injuries led to Rortvedt finally getting a call up and proving that he does in fact exist. As for what happened when he did play: well, Rortvedt definitely exists.
2023 Season Statistics: 32 games, 79 plate appearances, .118/.241/.221, 1 HR, 35 wRC+, .219 wOBA, 2 DRS, 0.1 fWAR
2024 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration
On May 18th, Trevino was placed on the injured list with a hamstring strain, leading to Rortvedt’s belated Yankee debut. He had run a .622 OPS in Triple-A to that point, but actually hit the ground running in the majors, going 2-for-4 with a double in his first game as a Yankee. From an offensive point of view, that game was pretty much the only highlight of his 2023 in the majors.
While he returned to Triple-A when Trevino came back, another injury necessitated another call to the bigs in July, where Rortvedt remained for the rest of the season. He mostly just backed up Kyle Highashioka until September. That’s when the Yankees called up Austin Wells, and let him get regular time to prove himself offensively and defensively. After that, Rortvedt was primarily Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher, despite there often being a weird vibe between those two.
lol Cole & Rortvedt’s vibe is so weird pic.twitter.com/R1AzacLsx2— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) September 15, 2023
As for his play, well, he’s a backup catcher. After his aforementioned two-hit season debut, Rortvedt went 6-for-64 over the rest of the season, with only two of those hits going for extra bases — both home runs. There’s also not a lot to suggest there was some hidden pop in his bat that just didn’t appear in that small sample size.
To be fair to him, he is, again, a backup catcher and he was also going to be evaluated more for his defense. Reviews of that aspect of his game tend to vary on what stats you look at, but he also didn’t have exactly the biggest of sample sizes in 2023. He did manage to throw out four runners stealing of of 12 attempts, which was a pretty solid percentage considering the rules changes instituted for 2023 and beyond.
As for next season, it seems like he may be headed towards the exact same role he started out in this past year: third catcher in Triple-A. Plans could always change, but as of now, it seems likely that the Yankees will give Austin Wells more time at that spot in 2024. Kyle Higashioka is arbitration eligible, and there’s a though that the team may let go of him. However, Jose Trevino should be back from injury for next year, meaning the top two catching spots may very well be locked down in some combination. Put that all together, and it seems most likely that Rortvedt will again at least start 2024 as the third option, although there’s plenty of offseason left for things to change.
Ben Rortvedt definitely exists, but to what extent he’ll exist in the future of the Yankees remains to be seen.