Now that Yankees spring training is underway from Tampa, one of the biggest position battles for a spot on the Opening Day roster will be for the backup catcher job. Since trading John Ryan Murphy to the Twins the offseason left a vacancy on the roster, one of Austin Romine or Gary Sanchez will need to step up to fill it.
Romine has seen big league time in the past, thanks to having a reputation for being a strong defender. However, his bat entirely lacks whatever strength his glove might have. That opens the door for Sanchez to wrestle away the spot on the roster with a good showing this spring.
The lingering question has been whether or not the Yankees will be willing to relegate one of their top prospects to the bench at the major league level instead of letting him continue to get regular reps at Triple-A. According to Sweeny Murti, Sanchez will be given every chance to win the back up job, and it will likely come down to how his defense performs this spring.
Sanchez got a bit of a shaky reputation on his defense while he progressed through the system. Passed balls were a concern, as was his receiving. His strong arm was certainly praised all along, but it couldn't make up for his other defensive failings. Many questioned whether or not he could even stick behind the plate long-term.
Most of those questions seem to have been pushed aside after Sanchez's strong 2015 season. It seems like there was real improvement from him on the defensive side of the ball, and that has most people believing in his future as a catcher again. If that holds true, it's very possible he will end up with the backup job.
There will likely be warranted reservations about how not playing every day will impact Sanchez's development, but the Yankees are in a bit of a tough spot with the only alternative being someone who is a complete offensive liability. Having Sanchez and his powerful bat on the bench is certainly the better option for the team, but whether or not it is the best option for Sanchez's growth as a player will remain unanswered for now. Hopefully it ends up not mattering.