The New York Yankees have had plenty of offensive issues through 18 games, but they’ve had one guy that has consistently produced this season. It isn’t DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, or anyone else you’d typically think. Rather, it’s been backup catcher Kyle Higashioka making noise at the plate in 2021.
After going just 4-for-30 in Spring Training, many were concerned about what his offensive production would be this season. However, he’s been the best hitter on the Yankees in this early season. His play has taken some at-bats away from Gary Sanchez and has proven he deserves a regular spot in the lineup.
In nine games this season, Higashioka is 6-for-17 from the plate (.353) with an incredible 1.476 OPS. Five of his six hits have been for extra bases, and three of them were home runs. Higashioka also leads the team with a 0.7 WAR, the next closest being Aaron Judge at 0.4.
The Yankees have also felt his impacts on defense, as the pitching staff has a 2.67 ERA when Higashioka is behind the dish. Gary Sanchez’s ERA with pitchers is still solid at 3.67, but Higashioka’s number is extremely impressive. In comparison, the Philadelphia Phillies have a 4.17 team ERA, which is 15th in MLB.
The point being, Higashioka needs to remain in the lineup regularly for the New York Yankees. With all the offensive struggles, Higashioka’s been one of the few bright spots, and his two hits against Cleveland on Thursday were no exceptions.
However, it’ll take a little creativity to keep Higashioka in the lineup daily. Gary Sanchez certainly hasn’t been the Yankees’ worst hitter, so he still deserves plenty of at-bats. On the other hand, Clint Frazier has really struggled in left field and is seeing less playing time. Brett Gardner has struggled as well, so could we see Giancarlo Stanton get some starts in left field while having Sanchez DH and Higashioka catch?
We’ll see how Aaron Boone organizes the lineup in the coming days, but we should fully expect to see Higashioka play again on Saturday at the latest. Gerrit Cole pitches then, and he faces the reigning CY Young in Shane Bieber. That’ll be another great opportunity to pair the Cole — Higashioka duo together again, as you want your best against your opponent’s best.
Regardless of who the Yankees are pitching and who the team is facing, Kyle Higashioka needs more at-bats. His play has shown he deserves playing time and he’s been one of the few productive players on the Yankees to start the season.