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Thoughts on the catching situation, Jameson Taillon, Wandy Peralta, and more

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Good morning everyone. And it is indeed a good morning — the Yankees have won the first two of this week’s series against the Rays at Tropicana Field and go for the sweep tonight. It’s really nice to finally see the team win a couple of games at that awful excuse of a ballpark. With that out of the way, let’s get to some of my Yankees-related thoughts.

On the catcher situation. I understand why the Yankees turned to Kyle Higashioka more than Gary Sánchez toward the end of last month, but at this point, we’re starting to see Higgy’s limitations as a near-everyday player. Keep in mind that this is someone who hasn’t caught a significant workload since 2016, when he caught 102 games split between Double-A and Triple-A.

After starting .320/.414/.880 (250 wRC+) with four homers in his first 29 plate appearances, the 31 year-old backstop is hitting .087/.192/.261 (31 wRC+) with one homer in his last 26 trips to the plate. He’s also struck out 11 times (42.3 percent). I know, I know — we’ve seen Sánchez slump like this and Higashioka is the better defender (by pitch framing, in particular: Higashoka is Statcast’s 98th percentile).

Since April 14th, both Sánchez and Higashioka have played in 14 games. Gary did DH one of those games, leaving Higgy with a slight majority of games caught. And as Mike Axisa pointed out on the RAB Patreon, the catching situation has effectively become a personal catcher platoon. Higashioka has caught all games in the last three turns for Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, and Domingo Germán. On the flip side, Sánchez has been behind the plate for Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery. I have no concerns defensively about this, but from an offensive perspective, I don’t really like a 60/40 split in favor of Higgy. It should be the other way around, if anything. Not to mention that it’s been a long time since Higashioka has had this sort of workload.

And aside from workload concerns, opposing teams will adjust to Higashioka over time. He’s not going to keep hitting homers every dozen at-bats or so.

Higashioka is basically a dead red fastball hitter. He’s got a .348 batting average and 1.000 slugging percentage against heaters this season, whereas breaking balls give him fits (.045 BA, .182 SLG, 45.2 percent whiff rate). He had similar woes last season, when he hit .333/.704 against fastballs and .154/.154 against breakers. Sure, Higgy will capitalize on a hanger, but he’s going to see more secondary pitches the more he plays. I’m a little surprised we haven’t quite seen that happen yet:

Higashioka’s expected stats aren’t very good against non-fastballs, either. His xBA is .098 and xSLG is .132 against breaking balls this season. It was a bit better last year (.211/.414), but still not great. He hasn’t seen too many changeups (only 47 pitches since last season), so there’s not much to make on those yet.

Sánchez can struggle against non-fastballs too, but at least he appears to have the ability to punish all pitches. His xSLG against fastballs (.492), breaking balls (.501), and offspeed pitches (.456) indicates a decent balance this season. Last year, he was better against fastballs and changeups in terms of xSLG (.489 and .480) compared to breaking balls (.332). The batting averages and expected batting averages are all extremely low, but at least you know he can crush one when he gets it. Plus, there’s this:

That’s a lot of good red. The whiffs make it hard for Gary to reach his potential, and his framing is a drawback, but I’m far more confident in him outproducing Higgy offensively in the long run. I’m not asking for Gary to play everyday again — just maybe a flip to 60/40 in his favor rather than the other way around.

I’m expecting a good outing from Jameson Taillon tonight. Jordan Montgomery and Gerrit Cole shut down Tampa Bay the last two nights, and there’s no reason that Taillon won’t do the same this evening. Frankly, the Rays offense stinks. Meanwhile, Taillon is coming off his longest outing of the season (6.1 innings against the Nationals) and hopefully can build off that later today.

One thing to watch for tonight: Taillon’s fastball usage. He’s deemphasized it in his last few outings:

Opponents have done some damage against his heater this season, which he’s used 48.4 percent of the time overall. He’s allowed five of his seven homers on the pitch. However, Statcast indicates that he’s been a little bit unlucky with it. He has an xBA and xSLG of .189 and .403, respectively, on his four-seamer. This lags behind his results: .265 BA and .612 SLG.

Perhaps the results have made him shy away from it in recent appearances, but it’s still a very good pitch. No, he doesn’t throw as hard as he did in Pittsburgh, but he’s still put up an impressive 30.8 percent whiff rate against on the offering.

Considering how helpless the Rays looked against Cole’s high heat last night, I wonder if we see Taillon ramp up his fastball usage. No one will mistake Taillon’s fastball for Cole’s, of course. Then again, the same can be said about Montgomery, who was also was pretty successful with his four-seamer on Tuesday too.

Also pay attention to tonight’s starter’s changeup. Taillon’s reintroduced the pitch in his last three starts after apparently shelving it for much of April. We know how much the Yankees like changeups, after all.

Speaking of changeups, let’s take a look at Wandy Peralta. Did we mention the Yankees like changeups? Check out what Peralta is up to:

April 30th was Peralta’s first game in pinstripes, and well well well. The organization’s mantra has already rubbed off on him. And in incredibly small sample size theater, Peralta hasn’t allowed a run (and just one baserunner) in five outings (3.1 IP) with the Yankees. He’s also struck out five of eleven batters faced. That’ll do. Here’s a good one:

Now, Peralta already threw his changeup a lot with the Giants. Last year, he used it 31.4 percent of the time (he only went to his slider more — 33.2 percent). He had success with it last year too, and it seems like the Yankees identified him as someone who would fit well into the team’s pitching strategy. So far, so good. Aaron Boone clearly trusts him more than Justin Wilson already.

Quick hits:

  • Tyler Wade had a pretty brutal game offensively yesterday. After striking out in his first at-bat against Ryan Yarbrough, he got to 3-0 against him to lead off the sixth. He took strike one, then chased ball four to ground out to start the frame. Just a terrible approach. Then, after an infield single in the eighth, he got thrown out stealing to end the inning with Giancarlo Stanton up. Inexcusable. Strange to say this, but: get well soon, Rougned Odor
  • Aaron Hicks is hitting .303/.415/.455 (150 wRC+) over the last two weeks (41 plate appearances). His sac fly last night was the deciding run of the game. His shin is definitely still bothering him after fouling a pitch off it over the weekend. At least it’s starting to look like he’s coming out of his early season swoon
  • By wRC+, the Yankees are tied with Cleveland for the lowest left field offensive production in 2021 (64 wRC+). Can’t say anyone expected that this season, particularly after Clint Frazier’s breakout in 2020. He and Brett Gardner have been black holes in the lineup. Some folks have called for Miguel Andújar to get some reps in left, but the Yankees have already returned him to Triple-A upon Luke Voit’s return. I’m still confident in Clint turning it around, though.
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38 Comments

  1. JG (Brendan Ryan)

    Wade is complete garbage and angers me every time I see him at bat. I have never seen a worse hitter on the Yankees.

  2. Wire Fan

    Looks like we are about to see a bunch more Wade in the near future with Torres testing positive for Covid.

    At least until Odor comes back. They could play urshela at SS some and swing DJL over to 3rd

  3. REA in MI

    Fun question I’ve been thinking about: who and when was the last time the Yankees had a frontline starter pitching at this level? Peak CC wasn’t this good, was he? 20-3 Clemens sported a 3.51 ERA. I’m a huge Pettitte fan, but he was never this dominant. Are we going back to Guidry in 1978?

    • MBN

      CC in 2009 was really dominant. Especially in the post-season.

      I also liked some of those Moose seasons in the early 2000s.

      But a season as dominant as Cole is going now (remeber – only 8 starts so far).? Probably Gator in ’78.

    • MikeD

      Yes. Basically, Guidry 1978.

  4. Wire Fan

    While Peralta has looked decent in a small sample, Tauchman has a 95 wRC+ playing regularly for SF (about 50 PAs) and has seen his power bounce back some (.140 ISO).

    I still think the Yankees may regret this deal as I think at worst he is a decent 4th OF (and cheap) who probably takes over for Gardy next year. And given how Clint and Gardy are hitting, may have been getting some playing time this year.

  5. TSags

    Quick point on Wade…up 1-0 late, WITH 2 OUTS, trying to steal 2nd is absolutely the play there, every time. I don’t care who’s up.

    And the HP ump was a bit of an assh*le running Clint when he did. We all saw it…hardly any overt disrespectful gestures on Clint’s part.

    • Gerreddardit Cole

      I also liked the Wade steal. The only reasons he’s here are defense and speed so you have to use it the few times he does get on base.

      But Clint has to know better. Stanton was arguing too. They won’t throw out Stanton but they will throw out some punk kid. Let Boone do the arguing and Boone needs to get more aggressive protecting his players.

    • chip56

      I’m ready to pull the plug on Clint. Get Florial up here and give him some run. Lord knows the Yankees could use a left handed bat anyway. Clint is hitting under .150 with no power and just looks like a guy who is expecting a bad result whenever he goes to the plate.

    • Brian M

      Agreed. It took a perfect throw and tag to get Wade there. Sometimes the other team makes plays too.

  6. Cary

    NY has two catchers, both of whom offer power & little else offensively & Higgy is successfully handling the most important 2/3 of the rotation and he’s a better overall defender. Blogging & graphs aside, Higgy should play more.

    Yankee decision making has hurt the team for a while now. Opening the season with the Jay of Bruce, who had completely run out of gas after the second week of spring training and who was learning to play first base was bad enough. Then the Yankees decided to bring in Ford who did zero in spring training and hasn’t shown in any way shape or form that he’s able to hit like he did in 2019, you know, the season with the juiced ball?

    Meanwhile, 27 year old Chris Gittens is an excellent defensive first baseman. Pretty sure he could put up offensive numbers better than Bruce or Ford while playing Superior Defense and returning DJ LeMahieu to second base where he can defensively impact the team the most.

    The Yankees actually had he solution to coping without Voit right under their noses in spring training, they simply bumbled it like they bumbled giving Whitlock away to their chief division rival for literally nothing.

    Probably too many people relying on charts and graphs in Cashma’s group of advisors. Honestly, the Yankees would be better off listening to Mike Francesa a couple times a week and just doing whatever he says.

    • JG (Brendan Ryan)

      Chris Gittens? Really?

      • Caty

        You would rather have Mike Ford on the roster? Seriously?? Gittens is a stud defender and he’s raking AAA. Ford plays subpar defense and he can’t hit to save his life.

        Meanwhile the Yankees are bleeding from left field & they have a plus defender in Stanton who is completely healthy and has a long track record of playing above average defense in the outfield.

        Hmmmm

        So you’d rather continue to let Clint Frazier, Mike Ford & Brett Gardner suck up AB’s instead of Stanton, Voit & Gittens?

        Uhhh. Not sure what else to say.

  7. chip56

    The catching situation can best be summed up this way: yuck.

    The Yankees should be scouring the market for help. The name that immediately jumps out is Buster Posey. The Giants aren’t going anywhere and have Joey Bart waiting in the wings.

    As for Wade, well that’s actually a much larger issue. The Yankees have been negligent in even attempting to upgrade their bench options which is bad enough, but worse when you consider how much time the regulars spend on the IL or having “rest days” in hopes of avoiding IL stints. Just another example where the goal to be CBT Champions has gotten in the way of fielding an actual good baseball team.

    • PeteEdinburgh

      So the Giants – 2 games clear atop the NL West – are going to hand over their probable Hall of Famer in the last year of his contract for…what exactly? Nick Nelson and a bag of magic beans? And Buster Posey is going to waive his full no trade clause and franchise icon status because it gets the Yankees out of a pickle? That’s very thoughtful of them.

      Back here in the actual world, I think the Yankees simply have to just muddle through with what they’ve got, probably sign a veteran stop gap in the winter, and hope one of the catching prospects makes good progress.

    • Cary

      Higgy is handling the Yankees most important pitchers very well right now. He’s not Thurman Munson nor even Joe Girardi but if he’s playing about half the games over the course of a long season and platooning with Sanchez, the Yankees will have to live with that.

      They had the chance to non-tender Sanchez & possibly sign Yadier Molina but there was a huge uproar over that. Meanwhile he’s hitting 296 with 5 HR thus far. Even that move would have cost 9 million compared to the 6.35 million the Yankees chose to allocate to Gary

      The Yankee universe wanted James McCann and right now I would say Gary is out playing him so thankfully the Yankees didn’t go that direction & dump over 10 million a year for the next 4 years on him.

      That leaves JT Realmutto as literally the only other viable catcher that could have been had this off-season would have been JT Realmutto who is obviously going to be starting for the National League in the All-Star game this year. He’s having a great year but The Phillies signed him for 5 years & 115.5 million.

      The Yankees actually have in-house candidates right now that make Gary Sanchez completely not needed. Rob Brantley has some big league experience and he hits from the left side, If the Yankees wanted to they could dump Sanchez and just roll with what they’ve got.

      Gary Sanchez has no future as a Yankee. There’s no way the Yankees are going to pay big bucks for what he provides. Should have cut bait this year but again the inner circle with all those decision makers chiming in clouded reality.

      Let’s face it. Catching is in high demand and there’s not a lot out there to be had. Not to mention, the Yankees are on a low budget. The Yankees have allocated big dollars to a full time DH. That’s kind of like one of the classic blunders, you know, never wage a land war in Europe and never mess with a Sicilian when death is on the line!

      Point being certain decisions are already made so catcher is a position the Yankees need to cut costs at. Just like utility infielder & any starting pitcher not named Cole. This is going to be the case for the foreseeable future unless the Yankees can develop their own talent.

      I vote for dumping Sanchez, promoting Brantley, moving Stanton to the OF 3)4 time (using Gardy as a late game defensive replacement), demoting Frazier, promoting Amburgey for now, promoting Gittens & making Voit the 3/4 time DH.

      • Cary

        Meanwhile, you give Miggy, Frazier & Ford a chance to play in less meaningful games and maybe find themselves.

        Stanton is absolutely a defensive upgrade over Frazier & Amburgey gets a little cup of coffee while the Yankees see how long it takes before Stanton gets injured again! LOL

        There is a chance if he played four or five days a week in the outfield that he might be actually healthier than if he was just dh-ing. But you kind of have to pick your poison. There’s also a chance that Voit playing the field regularly is an injury risk also. Voit really ought to be a DH p/t 1B. Certainly his bat should be in the lineup every day but the chance to get Frazier & Gardy OUT of the lineup Is too good to pass up. Neither deserves regular rap bats from here on out. Letting them both hit every day as a complete waste of time.

  8. HenryKrinkle

    Higgy got more playing time b/c he was hitting. Gary lost playing time b/c he wasn’t. The equation isn’t difficult. Hit more and you’ll play more. Gary doesn’t have the same status, where you’ll stick with him and wait. As Cashman specifically pointed out, earning time applies to catcher now.

    • Brent Lawson

      Sanchez is an awful catcher. He is here because he can or used to be able to hit. Now he is an awful catcher that is batting .167. Not a lot of catchers out there that hit too.

  9. MikeD

    The Higgy numbers are not a shock. As I wrote on Mike’s blog a week or so back, we are going to be reminded what happens when a BUC becomes a regular catcher. There’s a reason they were BUCs at the start. Gary, though, has created this problem. He’s the only one who can solve this problem. He’s still getting plenty of starts so he still controls his own future here. Start hitting and his playing time will increase. Higgy, btw, had a smart approach as a backup when he’d play. Major League pitchers are more likely to challenge what they view as a light-hitting BUC with more fastballs, especially at the start. It probably explains why his walks were low and his HR power was high. He was ambushing those fastballs because he knew how they were approaching him. He’s a fine BUC. Hopefully he goes back to being a BUC, but once again, this is up to Gary. No one else to blame.

    Wandy was a great pickup. I don’t think there’s an overall lack of trust in Wilson because of skill, but I don’t think he’s fully back health wise. He’ll have his stretches.

    I’m in the minority on this, but Andujar should be in AAA playing every day until there is some opening on the MLB squad. It will do him no good nor the Yankees any good playing once or twice a week. History says he won’t hit in those situations. They’ve bounced this kid all over the place in the field. Play him in every day in LF and let him get used to it out there. If Father Time has finally tapped Gardner on the shoulder, and if Clint remains in this funk, prep Andujar for LF duty.

  10. Jim

    If Wade was hitting 300, he’d be a starter.

    • The Artist Formerly Known as Tauchman Heads

      If my aunt had wheels, she’d be a bicycle.

  11. Gerreddardit Cole

    No, Randy. If anything the catching split is not enough in Higgy’s favor. It should be 80/20. I don’t mind using personal catchers for each starter because it is clearly working. Just look at the results of the starting staff. Higgy has shown more power and is a better defender. I know Gary hit a HR the other night but i just dont get the fascination with him. This has been 3 years now that he’s hit .200. 3 years of data and you’re taking Higgy’s last 20 at bats as justification for benching him. Bill Parcells always said you are what your record says you are. Gary ain’t going to suddenly become a .280 hitter with 40 HRs.

    I agree, Jameson will have a good start tonight. He has finally put it all together and thanks to Cole everybody in the pen is available except Chappy. Let’s go for the jugular tonight and hope Boone doesn’t rest half the roster because they’re playing on turf.

    Wandy, Lucas and Justin Wilson are the best left handed hydra we’ve ever had in the pen. The late 90s dynasty had Graham Lloyd and Mike Stanton but not 3. They’re the best LOOGY we’ve had since Boone Logan.

    I’d send Clint down to AAA to work on his hitting and an attitude adjustment. The home plate ump last night was not good but you can’t get thrown out. Gardy hasn’t been any better so I’d send down Ford and call up Miggy Andujar. Once Odor comes back send down Wade and we’ll finally have a great bench. Boone needs to tell Wade to just go up there and don’t swing. Maybe they’ll walk him like Brad Hand did.

  12. Brent Lawson

    Derek, I know for reading this blog regularly, you are all in on Sanchez. I would ask that you listen to Paul O’Neill and David Cone talk about the differences Higgy and Sanchez.
    There is something called feel in baseball or a sense for the game that everyone playing the game doesn’t have.
    As Cone puts it, there is a comfort level that Higgy brings every time he is catching Cole, and Kluber.
    Higgy may not hit as much as you continue to criticize him for, but, the last time I looked. Sanchez is batting .167. Not steller in my book.

    • Derek

      While I’ve definitely been a staunch Gary defender over the years, I’d like to think I’ve backed off a little bit. The bad results are undeniable.

      That said, I’m not advocating for Gary playing everyday or anything like that. I just think he should play slightly more often than Higashioka. Whether that’s 60/40, 55/45, whatever.

  13. Doug H

    What a surprise, advocating for more playing time for Gary. Not sure Higgy is the answer but my stomach can’t stand any more of watching Gary’s whiffs and muffs.

  14. Brian M

    Wade isn’t good but how good of a bench player do we need? He plays great defense and plays multiple positions, can be used as a pinch runner in late innings, and otherwise shouldn’t see the field much.

    If everyone else was hitting would we even care that the #9 hitter in our lineup who plays once a week can’t hit?

    • JG (Brendan Ryan)

      Wade is the worst Yankees hitter I’ve ever seen.

  15. MBN

    Really surprised with Clint’s struggles so far in 2021. No one expected this. Really hope he breaks out soon, as otherwise he will again be buried on the bench, or, more likely, in AAA. And he has nothing to prove there.

    I’m as big a Wade fan as there is, but it’s time to cut bait. It just isn’t working out. DFA him and bring up Holder, or activate Odor (never thought I would be hoping for Odor to return soon).

    • Derek

      Apparently Holder got hurt last night in Scranton’s game. Looks like Odor will be back relatively soon, at least. YES had some video of him working out in the infield yesterday.

    • Randy

      I’m curious. How does one become a big Tyler Wade fan?

      • MBN

        Randy;

        I really follow the Minors, and have done so for decades. I used to regularly get to Staten Island games, as well as Trenton. My job takes me on several business trips a year, including Tampa, and I usually was able to arrange to get down there during a homestand.

        I had seen Wade quite a few times in person, and his abilities when he was coming up through the system were pretty good. Not superstar good, but solid bench player. Along with his speed and glove, I was a fan of his.

        He just hasn’t lived up to my expectations. Disappointing, to say the least.

        • Brian Henry

          Randy, you and everyone else seem to dismiss a catcher’s game calling importance. The Yankee pitching staff respond to Higgy because he calls a great game, simple. Much lower ERA with Higgy vs. Sanchez is not an accident. Calling, framing, comfort, skill equals more time behind the plate for Higgy.

          • Cary

            Great point & spot on. Too much time staring at fan graphs trying to find a bunch of things that should be better than they really are is a waste of time. Higgy handles the pitchers better.

            The fact that Cole & Kluber prefer Higgy speaks volumes. If you were a Yankee pitcher who would you rather throw to? A guy who is in the 98th percentile in terms of pitch framing or a guy who might be the worst defensive catcher in the game?

        • MikeD

          As we all know, not every prospect pans out. He was never a global top-100 guy, but generally regarded as a likely major leaguer. Very skilled athletically, but his bat has never come around. This is a kid who slashed .310/.382/.460 in AAA as a 22-year-old. There was reason for hope that he’d be at worst a versatile and solid backup infielder for a first-division club, or a starter on a second-division club. Right now, I don’t think he should be a backup on a second-division club!

          The biggest issue I have with the Yankees is they are giving way too many ABs to the Wade’s and Ford’s of the world. They’re cheaping out there and over the course of the season it hurts them.

          • PeteEdinburgh

            “they are giving way too many ABs to the Wade’s and Ford’s of the world”

            Wade has obviously hit very badly, but it’s hard to say he’s been having way too much playing time. He’s in his 5th (!) year in MLB, yet he’s barely had half a season of hitting (319 ABs).

            I don’t know if he will ever hit, but its easy to overlook how tough the whole ‘playing once a week’ thing is. If an opportunity comes along to upgrade that roster spot, cool, but it’s not a serious issue for the Yankees.

        • This Year

          I am a similar age and have followed the minors eagerly as well. I agree that what Wade did in the minors suggested he would be a much better player in the show. In fact, I believe he won the AAA batting tile one year. But now it would be best for him to be sent to a team which is a non-contender where he could play for a substantial amount of time. If no development after that, well, then we– and he– will just have to accept he is an AAAA caliber player.

    • Cayy

      I was never sold on Frazier personally & since he has options it’s time to pull the plug. For the love of God! He stinks right now. Let him learn to stop lunging at the pitcher and hitting off his back leg without transferring his weight in Scranton. Yankees need to give these guys who are experimenting a one-way ticket to AAA. A big league roster is not a place to experiment. It’s a place to season opportunity and play fundamentally sound baseball on both sides of the ball.

      Guys who are two-way players need to come up. It starts with Gittens.

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