This New York Yankee Appears To Be Seizing An Opportunity
Gary Sanchez was the New York Yankees catcher that came into each spring training with an upper-hand on the starting job. Each year, subsequently it seemed like Sanchez played himself out of the starting job or was hurt. 3 weeks ago the player that general manager Brian Cashman referred to as 'The Kraken' was packaged with Gio Urshela and sent to Minnesota. With that move, an opportunity knocked behind the plate.
The Yankees received 24 year-old catcher Ben Rortvert as part of their package from the Twins. Rortvert would have been given an opportunity to win the starting job but has been battling an oblique injury for the last two weeks of spring training. Reports say he may be out for Opening Day. Another opportunity knocks.
Who's taking advantage of the aforementioned opportunities? The guy who has played in 139 games over the past 5 seasons, Kyle Higashioka. Known for his defensive skills, the 31 year-old Californian is torching the baseball this spring.
Higashioka is boasting a hefty .500 batting average with 3 home runs over 12 at-bats in Grapefruit League games. This is an opportunity for the long-time Yankee back-up to impress Aaron Boone grab hold of the starting job. The Yankees have catching prospects deep in their system but evaluators believe that they are still a few years away.
It's no secret that Yankees pitchers like having Kyle Higashioka behind the plate. He is a solid strike-framer, scoring 7% above the league average, according to Baseball Reference. Pitchers love when catcher can grab them a few extra strikes. A well framed called strike can be the difference between an out and a next pitch, run-scoring double off the wall.
Kyle Higashioka seems to be well liked by his teammates and coaches. It would be fun to see him behind the plate for the majority of the season after seizing the opportunity in spring training. Unfortunately, Higgy is a lifetime .183 hitter with 20 home runs over the last 5 seasons. Spring is also a fun time to dream. Hopefully, Higashioka is solid until a long-term solution comes along.