With the sudden emergence of Kyle Higashioka, the Yankees are put in a tough spot about what to do Gary Sanchez.
Showing signs of life last night in a 5-1 win against the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees deployed their new starting catcher Kyle Higashioka. As Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher the past several starts dating back to the 2020 postseason, it seems as if Higashioka has taken a gigantic step forward in his offensive approach. Gary Sanchez has struggled since the opening series against the Blue Jays and the undeniable chemistry Higashioka commands with the starters and the bullpen has made Aaron Boone’s decision almost an easy one.
It is never easy parting from a player who figured to be a part of your “core,” but as evidence and statistics show, Sanchez just isn’t getting the job done. I’m not saying we will never see Gary Sanchez play catcher for the New York Yankees again, but if he doesn’t take the time he’s riding the pine to reflect on what has happened over the course of these last three years… well, the writings on the wall.
It was an impressive start for Higashioka who displayed his power once again going 2-4 with a massive home run to further separate the Yankees from the Orioles in the top of the 4th inning. While it is a small sample size (25 ABs), no one can deny the numbers for Higgy. Sitting pretty with a batting average of .320 and major power numbers with 4 home runs and 6 RBIs, we are essentially seeing 2017 Gary Sanchez numbers.
Doing it Behind the Plate
The second longest-tenured Yankee has been getting his attention for his batting prowess, but what really has been most impressive is his play is his ability to make the pitchers feel comfortable calling the games. This was the first game since Corey Kluber signed with the Yankees that he has looked the part of a number 2 behind Cole. By going 6 2/3 innings, this was easily his longest outing. The walks were down, the pitch count was respectable, and most importantly, the very few times he was in trouble he was able to come out of it unscathed. Watching this start by Kluber clearly indicates how valuable Higgy is behind the plate.
If he continues to be a spark-plug for this version of the Yankees offense, there is no choice but to ride the hot hand. He seems to be the only one putting the ball in play on a regular basis and has seemingly transitioned into the presumptive favorite to keep the starting catcher’s job.
When Sanchez came up in 2016, he was labeled as one of the saviors for the long-in-the-tooth Yankees rosters of the past. The decline has been steep and there isn’t a reason to let him play at the moment. It’s so frustrating watching this happen to such premier talent. He is still so young with not a lot of miles on his body. Knowing how dominant Sanchez can be really leaves a sour taste not only in my mouth, but the mouths of millions of Yankee fans. Maybe he isn’t what we thought he was? I have refused to believe that for years, but with the sudden emergence of Higgy, it is inevitable at this point. Brian Cashman has his hands tied with this one.