The Yankees and fantasy owners will be without the services of Jorge Posada for at least 3-4 weeks, as the switch-hitting backstop has a hairline fracture in his right foot. Posada suffered the injury on a Michael Cuddyer foul tip this past Sunday.
The 38-year-old was off to a scorching .326/.406/.618 start in 2010, with a .441 wOBA. Sans Posada, New York won’t turn to uber-prospect Jesus Montero, a prodigious power hitter in Triple-A who’s just 20 years old and elicits unfavorable scouting reports behind the dish. Francisco Cervelli will get the bulk of the starts until Posada is healed.
Cervelli, 24, was signed out of Venezuela back in 2003. Prior to 2009, though, he was known mostly as “the dude that Elliot Johnson crushed at home plate in spring training ’08” (somewhere in Cleveland, Shelley Duncan just got all twitchy). During his minor league career, the 6-1, 210 pound righty batter posted a .273/.367/.380 triple-slash. Cervelli had a 9.4 percent walk rate, striking out 20.6 percent and rarely driving the ball with a .107 Isolated Power.
Baseball America ranked Cervelli 23rd in the Yankees’ system prior to 2008 and 21st before 2009, but left him off the 2010 top 30 as the club accumulated an embarrassment of riches at the catching position (Montero, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy all made New York’s top 10 according to BA). Cervelli’s catch-and-throw skills were touted in his ’08 and ’09 write-ups, but BA questioned his offensive ceiling:
2008 (John Manuel)
While he has a good swing, he lacks the premium bat speed or strength to hit for power. The ball doesn’t jump off his bat. He does draw some walks, but more advanced pitchers will be more likely to challenge him without fear of reprisal.
Cervelli lacks the bat speed and strength to produce more than below-average power, and while he has shown good plate discipline in the minors, he’ll have to earn the respect of pitchers at higher levels.
Over the 2008-2010 seasons, Cervelli has logged 187 plate appearances. His line sits at .319/.358/.410, with little in the way of secondary skills (4.8 BB%, .090 ISO) but a high contact rate (13.3 K%) and a .359 batting average on balls in play that’s going to regress (his minor league mark is .336).
Cervelli hasn’t been a hacker, as his 26.2 outside swing percentage is close to the big league average. But, as Baseball America’s Manuel alluded to, major league pitchers are challenging him–Cervelli has gotten a fastball 66.4 of the time, with 52.4 percent of his pitches seen being thrown within the strike zone (48-51% MLB average).
Coming into 2010, CHONE projected a .257/.311/.376 line (.300 wOBA), while ZiPS had a .255/.307/.380 forecast (also a .300 wOBA). Cervelli’s fast start this season has his rest-of-season ZiPS line up to .282/.337/.423 (.334 wOBA), which seems like an awfully large jump, particularly in the power department (.141 ISO). Personally, I would take the “under” on that projection.
Cervelli is relatively young, and his development has been delayed by some kooky injuries (a broken wrist in the Johnson collision that torpedoed his ’08 season and a concussion sustained on a backswing in ’09 among them). But .413 wOBA start aside, he’s probably more of an adequate offensive catcher than any sort of breakout star. Those in mixed leagues might want to turn to someone like L.A.’s Mike Napoli (owned in 47% of Yahoo leagues) or Arizona’s Chris Snyder (13%) instead.
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