Yankees: Can Kyle Higashioka legitimately steal starting job from Gary Sanchez?
The Yankees may have a tough decision on their hands with Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sanchez.
Woah! Not another knee-jerk reaction piece! Come on, guys. How many more of these can we take?
The New York Yankees steamrolled the Toronto Blue Jays yet again on Wednesday night to the tune of a 13-2 rout, which came behind three home runs (!!) and five RBI from backup catcher Kyle Higashioka, who has now been Gerrit Cole’s personal backstop for three straight outings.
Not only is this, hands down, the best Cole has pitched in 2020 (20 IP, 2 ER, 27 Ks), but Higgy is hitting 6-for-11 with four runs scored, four home runs and seven RBI in those three games. He’s raised his batting average to .250 and his OPS to .833.
Electrifying. None of those shots were cheapos, either. One to dead center, one to deep left and an opposite-field shot to deep right.
So now, let us ask, is Gary Sanchez’s starting job in danger? Well, to be honest, it seems like his days of catching Cole are … over?
It’s evident among members of the media, and when you dive a little bit deeper into the stats, even though Cole hyped Gary up earlier in the year in regards to his intel and ability to call games, the right-hander is MUCH better with Higgy behind the dish. Perhaps there’s no explanation for it, but that’s just the way it is.
As for taking the primary catcher job, another good performance at the plate could perhaps convince manager Aaron Boone to start more seriously considering it. The Yankees don’t make these kinds of decisions based on a few performances, but Sanchez is batting .134 with a .585 OPS. Regardless of how potent the Yankees lineup is right now, is the team really going to want to keep trotting his bat and suboptimal defense out there down the stretch and in the playoffs?
The fact of the matter is that Higashioka will not be providing a significant threat to opposing pitchers if he’s more of a mainstay in the Yankees lineup. Though Sanchez’s power potential does that regardless if he’s hitting the ball well, we’re sure Boone would like more offensive consistency from the catcher’s spot, and a .134 average is not doing that. Higgy’s played 28 fewer games than Sanchez, but .250 feels like .400 when you’re forced to watch Sanchez’s struggles every night.
Let’s just say this: Higashioka appears to be Cole’s personal catcher, which could be the first step in getting more games behind the plate than El Gary. More offensive production could further tip the scales. But will the Yankees make Higgy their starting catcher?
That’s an extremely tough question to answer at the moment, especially because the Yankees (and everyone else) want Gary to get back on track. Additionally, fewer reps will undoubtedly hurt the slugger’s trade value if Brian Cashman is considering taking that route in the offseason.
The only way we see this happening is if Sanchez regresses even further on both sides of the ball. And if that’s even possible, then God help us all.