Gary Sanchez’s “second chance” is quickly coming to an end only a month into the 2021 season. Sanchez finds himself once again on the verge of losing his job to 31 year old Kyle Higashioka, who caught five of seven playoff games during the 2020 season.
Sanchez seemed to be turning things around during spring training and the first few games of the season. Gary homered once in each of the Yankees first two games leaving fans hoping that “The Kraken” was back but now after a month of baseball everyone can tell that’s just not the case. Those two homeruns stand alone in 55 at bats for Gary whose slashing a measly .184/.308/.309.
Gary certainly isn’t the only Yankee struggling right now, the team’s offense has been anemic with almost every player batting below .250, but he is the only one whose replacement is more productive than he is. Higashioka has always been a better catcher than Sanchez. He has elite glove skills, relatively quick pop time, a great rapport with pitchers and falls within the 98% for pitch framing.
A great example of why receiving on every pitch of the game matters – 3 shadow zone pitches to 1st batter of the game for the Indians – Higgy converts all 3 for ꓘs. Builds a ton of confidence for P, gets in the hitter(s) head, & sets the tone for what the K zone might look like. pic.twitter.com/URPsPdG3ET
— Collin Wilber (@collin_wilber) April 27, 2021
If it was simply about defense Higgy would take the cake but the long time minor leaguer has some problems at plate, or maybe I should say HAD.
This season, Higgy’s bat has come alive proving to be one of the teams most productive hitters when he’s in the lineup. In his 10 games this season Kyle is putting up solid numbers batting .348 with 2 singles, 2 doubles and 4 home runs.
Kyle Higashioka has legitimately been the best hitter on this team pic.twitter.com/wtsG1zXAJx
— 4 Train Savages (@FourSavages) April 23, 2021
It became more clear every time Higgy caught that he was hot and Gary Sanchez was not. Finally after multi multiple hit games including two home runs against the Blue Jays on April 12th, Kyle was handed that chance to take back the position he already earned last post season.
Kyle Higashioka’s first home run of the season: #Yankees #BlueJays
— Bronx Bombers News (@NewsBronx) April 13, 2021
Kyle Higashioka's second home run of the night! pic.twitter.com/aAcyj1iUSb
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) April 13, 2021
Boone made it official after announcing that Higashioka would be catching Kluber on Tuesday night, a pitcher normally designated for Sanchez.
Kyle Higashioka will be getting more playing time. Aaron Boone said that he had a conversation with Gary Sanchez about the situation.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 27, 2021
Higashioka didn’t miss a beat last night, quickly taking advantage of the opportunity Sanchez’s struggles afforded him.
Higgy just hits. pic.twitter.com/CMNJehrHMT
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) April 27, 2021
In the following at-bat, Higgy blasted one to right field to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead against the O’s.
Higgy don't stop. pic.twitter.com/OP2vtFVEbT
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 28, 2021
Higgy ended the night 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run but that wasn’t the only things that caught everyone’s attention. A struggling Kluber looked like his former self with Kyle behind the plate. I can’t really give credit for Kluber’s successful outing to Higashioka but it definitely helps that elite pitching seems to excel with him behind the plate.
Kyle Higashioka isn’t the sole solution to the Yankees’ problems but he can bring much needed production to the lineup. It used to be Gary Sanchez’s position to lose but now it’s Kyle’s position to win. If Higgy can continue to put up the offensive numbers and get good production out of his pitchers there is no excuse to start anyone but him. Could this finally mean the end of Gary?