After serving as the “third catcher” behind Austin Romine for the past three years, Kyle Higashioka is going to have the chance to prove himself to the New York Yankees in 2020. With Romine now playing in Detroit, the back-up catcher role is all Higgy’s.
Higashioka has never played more than 29 major league games in one season but has spent over a year on the major league roster. He would come up when the roster expanded in September or when Gary Sanchez hit the IL, but that was about it.
Over his 146 career at-bats, he has a career .164 average. That’s not great, but he hit .214 in 2019, and each year has been better. He hit .278 and mashed 20 home runs in AAA in 2019.
Higashioka calls good games, and his defense and arm are developing. Overall, his playstyle is similar to Gary Sanchez, with just a bit better defense.
As said before, Higashioka is expected to be the back-up catcher at the major league level in 2020. Now, the team has Erik Kratz and Chris Ianetta in the organization, but both are on minor league deals. Both will be in spring training but are not expected to break camp with the team.
But, I think it’s likely that we will see Ianetta eventually. If Sanchez lands on the IL (or Higashioka), they will need another catcher. I have a hard time seeing it be Kratz because of his age and skill level decreasing, so it would probably be Ianetta. The only way we see Ianetta or Kratz without an injury is if Higashioka is playing bad.
The Yankees need Higashioka to continue to call good games and develop the rest of his game. The potential is there, and he’s a little better every year. Hopefully, 2020 is the year he breaks out and shows the team what he’s made of.