Kyle Higashioka has earned the catching job for now. The 31-year-old has been performing very well both defensively and offensively as Sanchez’s backup. Unfortunately for Sanchez, his 2020 struggles have carried into 2021. As a result, Boone announced on Tuesday that Higashioka will receive more playing time. Higashioka has surprisingly been one of the Yankees best hitters this season when he plays.
Comparing Sanchez to Higashioaka
Sanchez has looked lost at the plate all season. In 17 games, he is slashing .147/.253/.365 with an 86 wRC+. Sanchez opened the season with two home runs in back-to-back games and has only registered 7 singles in the 15 games since then. The Yankees organization has given Sanchez plenty of time to prove himself and they just cannot wait any longer.
Higashioka obviously has the hot bat right now and deserves the playing time he is being given. Higgy has actually been one of the Yankees best hitters in the time he’s played this year. He’s 3rd on the team in home runs with less than half of the ABs of any other starter. In 2020, Higgy started to show some pop in his bat slashing .250/.250/.521 in 16 games. Higashioaka has looked even better to begin 2021. In 10 games this season, Higgy is slashing .286/.400/.810 with a .524 ISO and 230 wRC+. These numbers will not hold, but anything better than what Gary provided is a huge upgrade.
Higashioka always seems to call a better game than Sanchez too. The starting pitching has looked much better with Higgy behind the plate compared to Sanchez. In games Higashioka starts, the team is 5-1 vs 5-12 when Gary starts. Yes, it is a small sample size, but the lineup and pitching have looked much better when Higgy is behind the plate.
The starting job is now Higashioka’s to lose.
What could happen to Sanchez now?
Gary will still receive playing time. Given the Yankees recent offensive struggles and Sanchez’s struggles over the past year, the spotlight was on Gary even more than usual. It’s up to him to get back to his 2017-2018 self, but it’s more obvious than ever, time is running out for Gary.
If Higashioka continues hitting the ball well, Sanchez may not be on the team by the trade deadline. Sanchez is still owed $6.3 million this season and given the Yankees budget restraints, they will not pay Sanchez $6 million to ride the bench if he does not improve when there’s veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos at the Alternate Site making $500,000. The Yankees will need to fill some holes at the deadline whether its pitching or hitting, so Gary could be an intriguing trade chip for teams in need of a catcher that think they can turn Gary around.
What are your thoughts? Did Boone make the right move benching Gary or is he just off to an early season slump? Leave a reply or tweet me @sashalueck