Yankees state of the system: Catchers
27-year-old Kyle Higashioka will be the starting catcher in Scranton. Higgy made his major league debut last spring, appearing in nine games and going hitless in 18 at-bats.
Incredibly, this will be his 11th season in the system. The Yankees picked him in the 7th round of the 2008 draft out of Edison High School in California.
He’s a tremendous defensive catcher who broke out with the bat in 2016. Between Trenton and Scranton that year, Higashioka swatted 21 home runs and batted .276. He put himself on the big league radar.
But injuries have always been Higashioka’s nemesis. He played in just 30 games total last year due to a rib cage injury. He missed almost all of 2013 and 2014 after having Tommy John surgery. In fact, 2016 was the only season in which Higgy played in over 100 games.
If he stays healthy, Higashioka should get another crack at big league playing time in 2018. Hardly any team makes it all the way through the year with just two catchers. There’s enough evidence that Higashioka might be a capable major league backup. But he needs to stay healthy.
Higashioka is currently on the 40-man roster.
Then there is 37-year-old Erik Kratz who is back with the organization after a four-game cameo last September. Right now, the plan is for Kratz to back up Higashioka in Scranton. Still, there’s a chance Kratz is pressed into a more significant role, either as the Triple-A starter or as the major league backup.
Kratz has made eight stops with six different teams throughout an eight-year major league odyssey. He’s a career .203 hitter at the big league level, although he was 2-for-2 with a double with New York last September.
Kratz is not on the 40-man roster.