The J.R. stands for John Ryan. Born on this date in 1991, this native of Bradenton, Florida was a Yankee second round selection in the 2009 amateur draft. During his six years in New York’s farm system, he’s averaged .264, hit right around ten homers per season and driven in between forty and fifty. His defensive skills behind the plate have been OK but nothing exceptional. Most Yankee pundits thought he was behind another young receiver named Gary Sanchez on the organization’s depth chart of young catching prespects, but it was Murphy who got the call-up to the Bronx in September of 2013.
Then the following winter, the Yanks went out and signed free agent catcher Brian McCann to a long term deal, meaning neither Murphy or Sanchez were destined to become New York’s starting catcher. When McCann’s backup, Francisco Cervelli suffered a bad hamstring injury during the second week of the 2014 season, the Yanks again turned to Murphy and not Sanchez to replace him.
This far in 2014, Murphy has performed well in that role. Through today’s date he was hitting a robust .407 in 11 games of action with a home run and five RBIs. He’s also handled himself well behind the play. If I had to guess how the Yankees were going to handle their catching personnel in the next few years, I think they will end up letting the injury-prone Cervelli go, keep Murphy as McCann’s backup and try to leverage Sanchez’s more attractive power numbers into a deal for a starting pitcher or shortstop at some point in the future.
Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances may be considered the two top pitching prospects in the Yankee organization, but if you go by Minor League player metrics, D.J. Mitchell’s numbers stack up more than favorably with those of both “killer B’s”. As of 05-13-12, Banuelos has a minor league record of 19-19 with a 3.08 ERA, 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (SO/9) and a walks plus hits per inning allowed average (WHIP) of 1.302. Betances is 26-25 with a 3.62 ERA, an SO/9 of 10.1 and a WHIP of 1.309. Mitchell is 40-21 with a 3.29 ERA, a WHIP of 1.301 and a SO/9 of 8.1.
Mitchell turns 25 years old today, a year older than Betances and four years older than Banuelos. His real name is William Douglas Mitchell and he was born in Winston-Salem, NC. He attended Clemson University and was a tenth round Yankee selection in the 2008 amateur draft. He began his college and amateur career as a full-time outfielder and part-time pitcher.
While the press focused all their attention on the two “B’s,” when pitchers reported to the 2012 Yankee spring training camp, it was Mitchell and Dave Phelps who pitched the best of all the young pinstriped prospects in March. The two battled for the long reliever slot on the big league roster. Joe Girardi indicated selecting one over the other was one of his toughest decisions and he ended up taking Phelps north with the team and sending Mitchell back to triple A. Then at the end of the first month of the 2012 regular season, Girardi demoted the struggling Freddie Garcia to the bullpen, inserted Phelps in the starting rotation and called up Mitchell too. D.J. made his Major League debut on May 1 against the Orioles. Girardi brought him in to pitch the top of the ninth inning with Baltimore ahead 7-1. I watched on TV as Mitchell proceeded to strike out the first big league hitter he ever faced, Orioles’ shortstop J.J. Hardy, on three straight pitches. He subsequently survived two singles and posted a scoreless inning.
Two days later, Girardi replaced Clay Rapada with Mitchell in the fifth inning of a game in Kansas City with a man on first, one out and the Yankees losing 2-1. He gave up two-hits and allowed two runs to score before that inning was over but came back to pitch a perfect sixth inning. Mitchell was then sent back down to make room for outfielder DeWayne Wise.
UPDATE: D. J. Mitchell was sent to Seattle in July of 2012 as part of the Ichiro Suzuki trade but is now pitching in the farm system of the New York Mets.