In this edition of ESNY’s New York Yankees Prospect Profile, we take a look at catcher Kyle Higashioka.
The scouting report on Higashioka, according to Baseball America, stated that he was a superior defensive backstop who did not have much power on draft day but had a great amount of room to grow due to his large frame.
It has been almost 10 years since the backstop was drafted and it seems like after a long grueling journey throughout the system, he is almost ready to shine on a major league field.
When he played his first partial season within the organization in 2009, Higashioka broke out on the scene posting better offensive numbers than were expected of him.
In 2009 with the Staten Island Yankees, the catcher sported a .253/.333/.332 slash line with 32 RBI’s in 60 games. This only went along with his superb defense which let the Yankees know they might have something special.
Following his impressive 2009 campaign, Higashioka received a non-roster invite to the Yankees 2010 Spring Training camp.
The offensive numbers would dip within the next few seasons following his breakout year, but he would still earn a call-up to the Yankees Double-A affiliate Trenton Thunder late in the 2012 season.
After just seven games with Trenton in 2013, Higashioka’s season abruptly ended with a devastating injury. Following a pickoff throw to first base, the catcher would need Tommy John surgery which would leave him missing the rest of the 2013 campaign and part of 2014.
Just as he was getting ready to make his long-awaited return in 2014, he suffered a broken thumb which set him back another two months and forced him with another injury to rehab.
“I had a lot of time to think,” Higashioka told Shane Hennigan. “And with all that downtime, your mind just goes everywhere and you think, ‘What if I don’t come back?’”
The catcher returned in 2015 to the Tampa Yankees where his numbers were even better than when he left, in 93 games he slashed .250/.299/.367 with 37 RBI’s.
2016 would be the true year Higashioka would shine and make a name for himself among a very deep Yankees farm system. In 102 games split between Trenton and Scranton, the catcher had a .276/.337/.511 slash line with a career-high 21 home runs and 81 RBI’s.
It is unknown whether or not these stats could be replicated by Higashioka again in 2017, but the Yankees will surely give him a shot to prove himself in this year’s Spring Training camp.
Gary Sanchez seems as if he has the starting catcher’s role in New York for years to come, but Higashioka could potentially shine in 2017 and receive his major league call-up to replace Austin Romine as the backup catcher.