The New York Yankees lineup has been noted for its top to bottom balance this season. With everyone doing their part to contribute, you often hear the names of sluggers like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton or standout rookie infielders Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar.
Of course, when you have so many players contributing to the cause like the Yankees do, some players can slip through the cracks and be forgotten.
That seems to have been the case with backup catcher Austin Romine. As the backup, Romine has seen limited action (26 games), mostly catching for starting pitcher Sonny Gray. Despite the lack of playing time, Romine has still managed to make the most of his time on the field by posting a .308 batting average and a .375 on-base percentage. He has already matched his career high in home runs, with four.
When it comes to his success this season, Romine credits a challenge by his manager, Aaron Boone. According to an article on MLB.com Boone told the catcher that he believed there was untapped potential in Romine’s hitting game. Potential untapped.
Romine is posting a career-high 10.2% walk rate, a 146 wRC+, and has already accumulated a 0.9 fWAR. For reference, Eric Hosmer (signed the biggest contract in San Diego Padres history this offseason) has a 1.0 WAR as an every-day player.
One big reason for his increased production, more fastballs. Romine is seeing more fastballs than he’s ever seen before, and a lot less breaking pitches. As a result, Romine has the highest hard-hit contact rate of his career (37.5%) and has started using the entire field, spraying the ball the opposite way like never before.
As I touched upon last week, starting catcher Gary Sanchez has been having an unusual season offensively. Unfortunately, his case is the opposite of Romine’s. Even though Romine is also a better defensive catcher than Sanchez, there is still no question Sanchez should remain the primary starter (despite a recent viral post that suggested the Yankees should move on from Sanches). While he’s currently struggling with a .200 batting average, Sanchez continues to have a positive impact someway or another in the Yankees balanced lineup, including a game-tying homer in the eighth inning on Wednesday against Seattle.
Back to Romine, his importance to this team shouldn’t be overlooked just because he’s not a primary starter. Having someone like Romine is a valuable asset, and could be a difference maker as the Yankees look to make a deep playoff push this fall.