Sanchez and the bullpen help the Yankees rally for a 9-4 win over the Red Sox

That game was shaping up to be very bad, yet it turned out to be very, very good. The Yankees came from behind for a 9-4 win over the Red Sox on Wednesday night thanks in large part to their bullpen, which was far more effective than Boston’s. That was a satisfying win. Yes, yes it was.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Johnny Wholestaff (W, 1-0)
Even good games bring bad news these days, unfortunately. Following a quick 12-pitch 1-2-3 first inning, Nathan Eovaldi was removed from the game with right elbow discomfort. He was sent back to New York for tests, which is never good. Looking at the big picture, losing a starter sucks. As far as Wednesday was concerned, the Yankees had to get eight innings from their bullpen without a true long man available. Yikes.

First out of the bullpen: Chasen Shreve. He tossed a scoreless second inning before giving up a run in the third. Next up: the recently claimed Blake Parker. He helped Shreve allow that run in the third, then allowed one of his own in the fourth. Both runs scored on fielder’s choices too, which is always annoying. They were potential double plays that weren’t turned for whatever reason. Blah. The Yankees were down 2-0 and on their fourth pitcher by the fourth inning.

Nick Goody finished up the fourth, tag-teamed the fifth with Tommy Layne, then Layne and Tyler Clippard got together to allow two more runs in the sixth. Didi Gregorius swatted a solo homer in the fifth, so those two runs charged to Layne made it 4-1 Red Sox. Clippard stranded runners on second and third in the sixth by getting Hanley Ramirez to pop-up, and that turned out to be a huge moment in the game given everything that followed.

Five-Run Seventh
The Yankees blew some scoring chances early in the game, the kind you figured would come back to bite them at some point. They wasted a leadoff single in the first, blew a two on with no outs chance in the fifth, then got nothing out of having two on with one out in the sixth. Double plays by Brett Gardner and Starlin Castro short-circuited those rallies. Annoying!

The offense made it up for it with their five-run seventh inning. Six hits and a walk did the trick. Let’s recap that game-changing inning with an annotated play-by-play:

NYYvsBOSpbp

(1) This rally came together very quick. Gregorius started the inning with a single, then bam, first pitch single by Gary Sanchez, and bam, second pitch single by Austin Romine to score a run. The bottom of the order got things started. The Yankees were in business before you knew it.

(2) Alex Rodriguez got to play! Joe Girardi determined A-Rod gave them the best chance to win against a hard-throwing righty in his first at-bat since August 2nd. Alex worked himself into a hitter’s count before flying out harmlessly to right. It was just off the end of the bat. It was a productive out though; Sanchez was able to tag up and get to third base with one out in the inning. Small bites. (Because that’s all this offense has been capable of most of the year.)

(3) The Jacoby Ellsbury single was huge. Biggest hit of the inning, I thought. A-Rod’s fly out and Gardner’s strike out meant the Yankees were on the verge of blowing their best scoring chance of the game, but Ellsbury was able to pull a two-strike pitch by Hanley at first base and into right field to score a run and keep the inning alive. If he makes an out there, the Yankees are still down 4-2 with only six outs to go. Instead, he cut the deficit to 4-3.

(4) Chase Headley‘s game-tying single was pretty ridiculous. I don’t know what happened to Fernando Abad — maybe he caught a spike during his delivery? — but he slowed down noticeably during his motion and threw Headley was amounted to a 61 mph eephus pitch way up in the zone. Look at this thing:

Chase HeadleyYou’d think a 61 mph pitch would really screw up a hitter’s timing, but Abad slowed his delivery so much that it was easy to pick up. It looked like a batting practice pitch. Headley yanked it to left field to score the runner from third and tie the game.

(5) Ellsbury’s hit was important because it scored a run and kept the inning alive. Castro’s hit was just as important because it gave the Yankees the damn lead. That’s a pretty big deal. He jumped on Junichi Tazawa’s first pitch hanger and pulled it down the line to score two runs, giving the Yankees a 6-4 lead. Quite a comeback, that was.

The Late Innings
It warms my heart to see Adam Warren being awesome and effective again. He just had to get away from those cursed Cubbies, that’s all. Warren retired all six men he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, and he was dotting the corners with his fastball expertly. Two strikeouts looking and four pieces of weak contact. He’s up to nine scoreless innings with the Yankees. That’ll do, Adam.

The Yankees thankfully tacked on three more runs in the eighth inning. Fenway Park is a crazy place and that 6-4 lead didn’t feel all that safe, especially with bullpen having already been decimated. Sanchez scored the first run of the eighth with his first career home run, an absolute monster shot to dead center. Look at this thing. Just look at it:

Hell yes, Gary. Hell yes. Statcast measured that blast at 426 feet and 107 mph off the bat. The numbers aren’t as impressive as it looked, so ignore them and watch the video a few more times. What a bomb.

The Yankees scored their other two eighth inning runs because Robbie Ross Jr. couldn’t throw strikes. He allowed a first pitch single to Rob Refsnyder, wild pitched him to second, walked Ellsbury on four pitches, then allowed two more runs on wild pitches. Ross had no idea where the ball was going. At one point he threw six balls in the span of seven pitches, and they were not competitive pitches. They were nowhere close to the zone. Sanchez’s tater and the two wild pitch runs gave the Yankees a 9-4 lead.

Dellin Betances, who was the last man standing in the bullpen — Anthony Swarzak was unavailable after throwing 40 pitches Tuesday — retired the side in the order in the ninth. New York’s bullpen: 8 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 5 K. Not great, but it’s better than what Boston’s relief crew did: 3.2 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. The Yankees looked to be in big trouble after Eovaldi had to leave the game. Seven relievers did a nice job not letting things get out of hand, and giving the offense a chance to battle back.

Hah. The guy is the red jersey is so mad. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Hah. The guy is the red jersey is so mad. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Leftovers
Have yourself a night, Gary Sanchez. He went 4-for-5 with that mammoth home run. The kid is alright. The Yankees had 15 hits total, and every starter had at least one except Aaron Hicks. He batted twice before being pinch-hit for by A-Rod, who was then replaced by Refsnyder in right field. Headley, Gregorius, and Romine each had two hits. The Yankees didn’t do much against Drew Pomeranz, but man, they pounded the bullpen.

You know things are going well when Ellsbury gets an outfield assist. He retrieved Mookie Betts’ double in the sixth, quickly threw to the cutoff man, and Gregorius fired a bullet home to cut down Xander Bogaerts trying to score from first. It’s not a true assist in the “Ellsbury threw him out at the plate” sense, but the guy need all the help he can get in the outfield assist department. I’ll allow it.

And finally, I’d expect the Yankees to call up a fresh reliever or three tomorrow after the way Girardi has to use his bullpen tonight. In fact, Luis Cessa’s lady friend Twittered out that he’s on his way up, so there’s one fresh arm. I’d bet on one or two more guys joining him as well.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com has the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the win probability graph. At one point in the sixth inning the Yankees had an 8.6% chance to win the game. Hooray for outliers!


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees have been alternating wins and losses since the All-Star break, and they’ll look to buck that trend in the series finale Thursday night. They want to win this three-game set. A-Rod is scheduled to be in the lineup for that one. (Assuming Girardi doesn’t change his mind again, of course.) Michael Pineda and Eduardo Rodriguez — not the injured Steven Wright — are the scheduled starters.

DotF: Judge homers in Scranton’s latest blowout win

Got two notes to pass along:

  • The Yankees have released 1B Ike Davis, the team announced. The move clears a roster spot for LHP Richard Bleier, who was send down yesterday. I wouldn’t read anything into this regarding a potential call-up for 1B Tyler Austin. They needed a roster spot and Davis was most expendable. That’s all.
  • PNC Field in Scranton (well, Moosic, technically) will host the 2017 Triple-A Championship Game between the International League and Pacific Coast League, reports Shane Hennigan. That’s pretty neat. Each year the IL and PCL champs meet for a one-game winner-take-all Triple-A title game.

Triple-A Scranton (10-0 win over Lehigh Valley) they lead the International League with 538 runs … only one other team is over 500 for the season

  • LF Ben Gamel: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 12-for-30 (.400) in his last six games
  • CF Clint Frazier: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles, a triple, and a homer in his last five games
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — here’s video of the homer
  • DH Cesar Puello: 0-4, 1 R
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-5, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — 10-for-17 (.588) with five doubles in his last six games … I have to think he’s the odds on favorite to come up after Alex Rodriguez is released Saturday, but we’ll see
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-5, 1 R, 1 PB
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 9/3 GB/FB — 59 of 94 pitches were strikes (63%) … he has a 1.29 ERA in 181.1 innings since coming back from Tommy John surgery last season
  • RHP Kirby Yates: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine pitches, eight strikes

[Read more…]

Update: Eovaldi leaves start with elbow discomfort

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

8:02pm: Eovaldi left the game with right elbow discomfort, the Yankees announced. He’s going back to New York to be examined. Groan. Eovaldi had elbow discomfort last September and it turned out to be only inflammation, so hopefully they get relatively good news again.

7:37pm: Nathan Eovaldi left tonight’s start after just one inning for an unknown reason. Injury is a pretty safe assumption, I’d say. Eovaldi looked fine during his 12-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning. His velocity seemed fine and there was no obvious “he looked like he tweaked something” moment. Weird.

The Yankees have not yet announced any sort of update on Eovaldi, so stay tuned. They don’t have a true long man on the roster, which means they’re going to blow through their bullpen using guys for one or two innings each. That’s never good.

Game 113: Trying to Win

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

The Yankees have alternated wins and losses since the trade deadline, which means they’re due for a win today. That’s good, because these games are super important and the Yankees are still trying to win. Joe Girardi‘s not managing a retirement tour here. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. DH Gary Sanchez
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

The weather in Boston isn’t all that great today. It’s been raining on and off and that’s supposed to continue this evening. The heaviest stuff is supposed to come overnight. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:10pm ET. It’ll be broadcast on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Roster Move: Blake Parker, who was claimed off waivers yesterday, was added to the roster and Luis Severino was optioned to Triple-A to clear a roster spot, the Yankees announced. They’ll need to come up with a starter for Sunday’s game. (Chad Green lines up perfectly.) By my unofficial count, 13 days in the minors delays Severino’s free agency one more year.

Injury Update: Conor Mullee underwent “ulnar nerve decompression surgery” on his right elbow yesterday, the Yankees announced. The team did not announce a timetable for his return, but at this point of the season, I’m guessing he’s done for the year. That bites. At least Mullee gets MLB pay while on the DL after four elbow surgeries and more than five years in the minors.

Red Sox Rotation Update: Steven Wright is no longer starting tomorrow. He jammed something running the bases a few days ago. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez still start in his place.

TiqIQ: Tickets Are Still Available for A-Rod’s Last Game Friday

Friday marks the end of Alex Rodriguez’s career in pinstripes, and while the nation draws its attention to Yankee Stadium as the beleaguered star takes his last licks, there’s still a chance to witness the festivities live.

A mad dash to the box office ensued after the 41-year-old’s press conference Sunday morning, and by Monday afternoon only a few dozen seats were still available on Ticketmaster. However, those that slept on purchasing can still find Yankees tickets for A-Rod’s last game. Don’t expect them to be there much longer, though.

As it stands now the cheapest available tickets to Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays are $95 each in Section 105 next to the Yankees bullpen. It is the only section currently offering ticket prices below $100. In Section 114, which is located on the first base side, tickets are currently listed from $150 each. Several other seats are available starting from $175 each in Section 128 headed out towards left field.

Prepare for prices to spike if looking elsewhere in the stadium. Tickets are still available in the 100 section behind home plate but will cost upwards of $275 each. The most expensive available tickets are going for $500 each in wheelchair-accessible seats in Section 122A.

Whether watching from right field or the comfort of the living room couch, Friday night will mark the end of an era in the Bronx. A-Rod’s tumultuous 12-year run as a member of the Yankees was a polarizing one; two MVP Awards and a World Series title were overshadowed by his illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs, which he initially claimed to have used solely during his brief career in Texas. That would later prove to be false, as the slugger would also admit to using PEDs from late 2010 to October 2012.

Still, weighed down with the fact that he will never enter the Hall of Fame with pure intentions, A-Rod’s many accomplishments both off and on the field cannot be overlooked. He was a poster child for the game for nearly two decades, and though his play was virtually non-existent over the last four weeks, there’s no doubt that Yankee Stadium will be packed to the brim to see his final at-bats Friday night.

And who knows, maybe this isn’t the end for the aging slugger. The thought of playing again hasn’t been ruled out, so perhaps he’ll be back in the opposing dugout wearing road greys next season. And wouldn’t that be something.

Cashman: Yankees getting two “legitimate” lower level prospects for Nova

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Even after receiving ten prospects in their various trade deadline deals, the Yankees still have two more prospects coming to them. Ivan Nova was traded to the Pirates for two players to named later, and after the trade, Brian Cashman told reporters the Yankees will pick those players from a list after the season. They’ll spend the next few weeks scouting before making a decision.

Cashman appeared on Buster Olney’s podcast last week, and during that appearance he gave some more details about those players to be named. They’re going to be two “legitimate” prospects from the lower levels of the minors. Here’s what he said:

“We’re getting two prospects from Pittsburgh for Nova, so we have to pick from a list of players and evaluate those the remaining two months (of the season). We’ll be bouncing throughout lower levels of the Pirates’ system as we make that selection and add two more pieces that are legitimate prospects.”

I saw folks I trust on Twitter saying that, in a separate radio interview, Cashman said the Yankees will be picking from a list of four players who are among Pittsburgh’s 30 prospects. I can’t find that radio interview, but like I said, I trust those who were talking about it. Also, Rob Biertempfel says the two players are not on the 40-man roster.

So, if nothing else, this helps us narrow down the list of players. Two non-40-man roster players in the lower levels who are among the Pirates’ top 30 prospects. Top 30 prospects according to whom? Who knows. Maybe Baseball America, maybe MLB.com, maybe probably the Yankees’ internal evaluation of Pittsburgh’s system. Let’s stick with MLB.com’s list because it’s free. Here are the players who fit that criteria:

5. RHP Mitch Keller
6. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes
8. SS Cole Tucker
13. RHP Yeudy Garcia
17. LHP Stephen Tarpley
18. RHP Luis Escobar
20. RHP Gage Hinsz
21. 3B Kevin Kramer
25. LHP Taylor Hearn
27. RHP Dario Agrazal
28. OF Tito Polo

The Yankees did exceptionally well in their other trade deadline deals, though this is still Ivan Nova we’re talking about, so I doubt any of those first three guys are in play. Keller, Hayes, and Tucker are among the Pirates’ best prospects. Also, Hearn just came over in the Mark Melancon trade, so he’s probably off-limits too.

Based on all of that, that list of eleven players above has already been whittled down to seven: Garcia, Tarpley, Escobar, Hinsz, Kramer, Agrazal, and Polo. Personally, I really like Kramer and would be pretty thrilled to get him in the Nova deal. Really though, I’ll be happy with anyone with actual prospect value. That the Yankees are getting two players is just gravy.

Nova will be a free agent after the season and he’s not a qualifying offer candidate, so the Yankees didn’t have a ton of leverage in trade talks. His performance since returning from Tommy John surgery didn’t helped matters either. The Yankees were smart to trade Nova for whatever they could get rather than lose him for nothing after the season, and it sounds like they might actually get a pair of halfway decent prospects in return.

Late-blooming Kyle Higashioka gives Yankees extra layer of catching depth

(Times Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

By and large, this has been a really excellent season for the Yankees in the minors. They imported several high-end prospects at the trade deadline, and the top prospects they already had have performed well. The only major negatives are Jorge Mateo‘s suspension/slump and James Kaprielian‘s injury. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not too bad.

Among the best feel good stories in the system this year is catcher Kyle Higashioka, who, at age 26, is finally healthy enough to put together a breakout season. He missed most of the 2013-14 seasons with Tommy John surgery — Higashioka blew out his elbow making a snap throw to first — and a broken thumb, and he’s been stuck playing second fiddle to the Yankees’ top catching prospects over the years, most notably Gary Sanchez.

“I had a lot of time to think, and with all that downtime (while injured), your mind just goes everywhere and you think, ‘What if I don’t come back?,'” said Higashioka to Shane Hennigan back in June. “Obviously, it wasn’t encouraging to take a step back (due to the broken thumb). But on the other hand, I was really grateful that they gave me the opportunity to play every day rather than just stick me as a backup at one of the higher levels — that’s what I’m really grateful for.”

So far this season Higashioka is hitting .308/.368/.563 (157 wRC+) with a career high 17 homers and a career high 22 doubles in an almost career high 326 plate appearances. This is only the fourth time since being a seventh round pick back in 2008 that Higashioka has cleared 300 plate appearances in a season. His career high is 359 plate appearances back in 2010. It’s been a long time since he played this regularly, and he’s handling it well.

In most cases like this, it would be easy to write off Higashioka as an older guy having success in a relatively small number of at-bats. That happens all the time. The fact Higashioka is a catcher and finally healthy after years of injuries forces us to take notice, however. This is a guy at a premium position displaying power after all those physical issues. This might not be a fluke. Higashioka might be a late-bloomer, and there are reasons to think he’s legit.

1. His background provides important context. The Yankees gave Higashioka a $500,000 bonus out of an Orange County high school when they selected him in the seventh round of that 2008 draft, so they really believed in his two-way potential. Also, the Yankees brought him to Spring Training as a non-roster player every year from 2010-16 except 2014, when he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Higashioka was the youngest player in camp in 2010.

There’s also this: Higashioka became a minor league free agent last offseason. The Yankees liked him enough to bring him back, and he was happy enough with the Yankees to come back. That’s kind of a big deal. It must be pretty daunting to be a young catcher suck behind Brian McCann, Austin Romine, and Sanchez on the depth chart. Higashioka could have easily left and looked for a greater opportunity elsewhere, and no one would have blamed him. There’s definitely some loyalty going both ways here, and that’s not nothing.

2. He’s always had some power. Although he’s never shown quite this much power before, Higashioka has always had some pop in his bat. I mean, look:

Higashioka’s offensive performance has been so good this season because he’s hitting for a higher average and drawing more walks than ever before. The power has always been there though.

2009: .079 ISO in 247 PA with Short Season Staten Island
2010: .113 ISO in 359 PA with Low-A Charleston
2011: .136 ISO in 324 PA between Charleston and High-A Tampa
2012: .157 ISO in 164 PA between Tampa and Double-A Trenton
2013-14: .198 ISO in 109 PA around Tommy John surgery
2015: .117 ISO in 348 PA between Tampa and Triple-A Scranton
2016: .255 ISO in 326 PA between Trenton and Scranton

That’s a really nice, steady progression from 2009-12 before the elbow injury and broken thumb threw a wrench into things. I know that .136 ISO in 2011 doesn’t look impressive, but we’re talking about a kid who was almost two years young for his level and playing the most demanding defensive position. Ten catchers have 200+ plate appearances in the High-A Florida State League this year and three have a .100+ ISO. Two have a .130+ ISO and both are older than Higashioka was in 2011. It’s hard!

Furthermore, check out Higashioka’s spray chart this season, via MLB Farm. This is Double-A and Triple-A combined, so it’s everything. All his balls in play:

Kyle Higashioka spray chart

No one will confuse Higashioka for Alex Rodriguez when it comes to opposite field power, but a right-handed hitting catcher who can occasionally poke one out to right field is a nice little piece in Yankee Stadium. Higashioka’s power was developing steadily before the Tommy John surgery complicated things. Now that he’s healthy again, Higashioka is showing more power than ever before, and it’s probably not a coincidence that it’s happening right as he enters what figure to be his prime years.

3. He’s a good defensive catcher. The scouting report on Higashioka has long said that he is an excellent defensive catcher, dating back to his draft year. Baseball America (subs. req’d) said he “receives the ball smoothly and is quiet behind the dish … he’s consistently posting pop times in the 1.95-2.0-second range” during his draft year, which was a baseball lifetime ago. If nothing else, that tells us the defensive tools were there once upon a time.

The Tommy John surgery is significant. I know it’s easy to overlook for a position player, but catchers are different because so much of their defensive value is tied up in their arms. From 2010-12, Higashioka threw out 36.3% of basestealers. Last year it was 25% and this year it’s 30%. That’s a pretty big drop that can be attributed to not just the elbow reconstruction, but moving to higher levels, where the baserunners are ostensibly better.

Catcher defense is difficult to measure as it is. It’s damn near impossible in the minors. The folks at Baseball Prospectus whipped up some new catcher defense stats over the winter — I used them to look at Sanchez’s defensive development — and they are, by far, the best information we have on minor league catcher defense. Data for 2016 rates Higashioka as 14.7 runs above-average defensively, seventh best among all catchers in baseball, majors and minors.

It goes without saying this data comes with a ton of caveats. It’s one tool in the shed. That’s all. Without seeing Higashioka catch every single day, it’s pretty much impossible to evaluate him defensively. All we know is that he has a reputation for being a standout gloveman, and the latest numbers back that up. There’s evidence this guy is an asset behind the dish, and that’s huge. An outfielder or first baseman doing what Higashioka is doing this year probably isn’t worth a second thought. But a catcher? That’s different.

4. It’s not uncommon for catchers to be late-bloomers. I have not seen any research on this, but anecdotally, it seems like catchers are late-bloomers moreso than any other position. By late-bloomer I don’t necessarily mean someone who comes up for the first time at 25 or 26 or 27, but someone who doesn’t stick in MLB for good until that age. Jorge Posada wasn’t in MLB for good until he was 26, for example. Giovanny Soto won Rookie of the Year at 25. Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Hanigan, and Caleb Joseph didn’t break in until they were 28. David Ross was 26 in his first full MLB season. The list goes on and on.

There’s a few reasons for this. First and foremost, there is so much defensive responsibility at the catcher position that sometimes is takes players time to get it down. (It’s also not uncommon for their bats to lag because they’re so tied up in improving defensively.) There also seems to be some bias against young starting catchers. Unless you’re talking about an elite catcher prospect like Buster Posey or Matt Wieters, teams usually don’t throw these guys to wolves. They like to ease them into big league duties. Injuries can be a factor too, as they are in Higashioka’s case.

Higashioka would not be the first nor the last catcher who broke into the big leagues closer to his 30th birthday than his 20th. Guys like Ruiz, Hanigan, Ross, and Soto show it’s possible to break in late and still carve out a pretty long and successful career. Catcher is a highly valuable position, and if you can play it capably, teams won’t care if you’re a 27-year-old rookie. Sometimes it takes these guys time to develop and they don’t hit their stride until, well, until they’re Higashioka’s age.

* * *

The Yankees have some very nice depth behind the plate right now thanks to Sanchez’s development and Romine showing he’s a passable backup. Higashioka’s breakout season further adds to that depth and gives the Yankees another safety net in case they decide to do something like trade McCann or Romine this month or in the offseason. (Or even Sanchez in a blockbuster.) That assumes his breakout is for real, of course.

Higashioka will again be a minor league free agent this offseason, and given his monster offensive numbers and supposedly good defense, the odds are strongly in favor of him landing on someone’s 40-man roster this winter. Young-ish catchers with those numbers and this kind of defensive reputation usually don’t stay unemployed very long.

I think the Yankees should absolutely add Higashioka to the 40-man after the season. They can’t let him go for nothing and quality catchers are so damn valuable that it’s worth keeping him around to see if this breakout is for real. A year ago at this time Higashioka was pretty much off the radar, mostly due to injuries. Now he’s suddenly someone who could factor into the team’s short and long-term plans.