Memorial Day weekend is just a few days away, which is usually the quarter mark for the MLB season. This is where a real gauge of how a team and its players are doing can be created.
So, when analyzing the current Yankees roster, one real observation can be made after the first 48 games of the season: Kyle Higashioka should officially be named the team’s starting catcher over Gary Sanchez.
Tuesday night’s loss to the Toronto Blue Jays was a clear indication why this needs to be the case. Higashioka was the main source of offense with both of his hits leading to the two runs for the Yanks. Sanchez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
The Yankees went into spring training giving Sanchez another clean slate, and he looked to be much better after getting off to a hot start there — a breath of fresh air for Yankees brass hoping that he can finally get back to the player they saw burst onto the scene in 2017.
But throughout this regular season, his struggles at the dish continue to plague his career in pinstripes. His .174 average in 33 games is the lowest mark by any projected starter coming into Opening Day. He is also slugging just .339 with three doubles and five homers over 109 at-bats.
And through the month of May, where Sanchez and Higashioka have been basically trading days back and forth behind the plate, the former is hitting .157/.271/.373 with 21 strikeouts in 51 at-bats.
On the other hand, Higashioka is hitting .200/.307/.492 with five homers and nine RBI in 24 games (19 starts). The slash line isn’t insanely better at a glance, but the slugging percentage difference is clear. He also strikes out much less often with 20 total on the season to Sanchez’s 36.
With better defensive metrics than Sanchez. — plus-six defensive runs saved in the last two seasons for Higgy compared to minus-11 — Higashioka has proven that he can be a defensive-minded catcher who can also make an impact on offense. Yes, Sanchez has that potential as well. But how long are the Yankees going to say that to themselves before actually realizing that this “slump” has gone on far too long? This dates to last season as well.
If you total Sanchez’s 2020 shortened season numbers with his numbers so far this season (82 games), he is hitting .161/.278/.352 with 15 total homers and 100 strikeouts.
The writing has been on the wall for some time, but the time has come for the Yanks to acknowledge the fact that their once-coveted catching prospect just isn’t getting the job done. Until he shows the team he can make adjustments, the backup should get a promotion.