Kyle Higashioka – Welcome to the Show!
The 2020 off-season saw the departure of longtime Yankee backup Austin Romine who signed a $4.15 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. Good for him!
With Romine’s departure, we should see Kyle Higashioka as the primary Yankee backup in 2020. Higashioka has been a farmhand favorite of mine for a long time for a number of reasons:
He’s 29 and has stuck it out to finally get his shot in the major leagues (I appreciate players that have grit and stay focused on achieving their dreams, even at long odds.)
He’s from my adopted county (Orange County California)
He’s an American of Japanese descent and there are not many of those in the major leagues
He speaks Japanese and Spanish
I believe that Kyle Higashioka will find success with the Yankees in the back-up role. Throughout his minor league career, Kyle Higashioka has always had low strikeout rates and decent walk rates. These are important trends as they demonstrate that he has an acute sense of the strike zone. In 2016, he started to show some power when he hit 21 home runs in only 356 plate appearances. Over the past two years of small stints in the majors, he’s has connected for six home runs in only 136 plate appearances. In addition, he had decent peripherals in 2018 (20.3% strikeout rate and 7.6% walk rate in 79 plate appearances) even though 2019 was a bit of a mess (45.6% strikeout rate and 0% walk rate in 57 plate appearances). Still, the skills are there, the talent present.
Steamer has Higashioka projected to hit .223 (.279 OBP) in 131 plate appearances in 2020. I actually see him playing more than that because I think that the likelihood that Gary Sanchez can handle the other 570 or so plate appearances is quite slim. I am guessing that Higashioka will end up at between 200 and 250 plate appearances. Steamer has Higashioka at a 25.7% strikeout rate and a 6.5% walk rate which is worse than his 2019 numbers. So I’m hoping that Higashioka can do a bit better than that. I think he will. Those projections seem to be low based on his 2019 numbers. I think, with more regular playing time, he’ll come closer to the numbers he put up throughout his minor league days and in the limited sample in the bog leagues in 2018.
In any case, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Kyle Higashioka does in 2020. He will be one of my favorite players to follow!