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  • Ethan Semendinger

Who's Catching in the Postseason? (Higgy)

Jose Trevino (115 games) or Kyle Higashioka (83 games)? The All-Star or the Hot Hand? The Glove or the Bat? Who plays?

 

Kyle Higsashioka (The Case For):


The longest tenured Yankee in their organization, Kyle Higashioka was drafted and signed by the New York Yankees as a 7th round draft pick in the 2008 MLB First Year Player Draft out of Edison High School. He's been with the New York Yankees for 15 years, which has included 9 in the Minor Leagues, 3 seasons with split time between the MiLB and MLB, and 3 seasons strictly at the MLB level.


After 2021, as the Yankees were considering a shift away from their starting catcher of the late-2010's- that being Gary Sanchez- the player they were looking to keep around was none other than Kyle Higashioka. Higashioka had previously taken a role for the Yankees as the glove-first catcher behind the "bat-first" Gary Sanchez.


This started during the 2020 season, as Kyle showed some serious offensive promise while cracking 4 home runs and a 107 OPS+ as a back-up during the shortened 60 game season. This would explain his 16 games played, though making a decision off this sample size would have been frivolous. He then played much differently in 2021 as a still positive player (+0.4 bWAR, +0.6 fWAR) even alongside his quite low .181/.246/.389/.635 quadruple slash line. Point being made, Higashioka did hit 10 home runs over parts of 67 games played.


This past season in 2022, Higashioka started to show a little bit better with the bat again as he hit to a .227/.264/.389/.653 quadruple slash with another 10 home runs.


This was largely helped by a tremendous September/October from this year for Higashioka as he hit (over 18 games) to a:

  • .339 Batting Average

  • .356 On-Base Percentage

  • .536 Slugging Percentage

  • .892 On-Base Plus Slugging

  • 3 Home Runs

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This is where the "pro-Higashioka" crowd gets it's power. In easy terms, it's because Kyle Higsahioka has been a power with the bat over the final stretch of the season.


The other positive component for Kyle Higashioka and his supporters is that while Jose Trevino has the better glove, it is not akin to how Higashioka found his playing time when Gary Sanchez was on the team. Yes, Trevino's glove is better, but that's like taking George Washington to lead your army over George Meade. Both are great at what they're doing but one was obviously better than the other.


For Higashioka he had a positive dWAR at +0.6 (from Baseball Reference), a defensive value of +12.6 (from Fangraphs), and a ranking at the 71st percentile for framing amongst catchers (from BaseballSavant). He's still very much an above-average defender behind the plate and would be easily able to slot in and handle the pitching staff.

 

Kyle Higashioka (The Case Against):


There is a clear and obvious case against Kyle Higashioka and it's that his recent hot streak is not indicative of the batter and player that he is. Yes, it has been tremendous, but he's never shown that he can be an above-average hitter for an extended period of time. Ultimately, most of us are holding our breaths for when the hot streak ends and Kyle goes back to hitting as a below-average bat again.


For some- like Jeff Mathis- they can make the low-hitting work. For Kyle Higashioka it's a much harder role to take on as his defense does not entirely make up for being a hitter with a near 75 OPS+.


Going back to it, the case against Kyle Higashioka can be summed up in one sentence, based on this past season:


"From Opening Day until the end of August, 2022, Kyle Higashioka had a batting average at or above .200 at the end of just 3 days...including the day after Opening Day."


His great month-long stretch has propelled Higashioka into having another solid season when looking at his overall statistics (84 OPS+) along with his solid defensive numbers. But that may not be enough to have him take back the starting catcher role for the postseason.

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