Scouting Yankees Prospect #26:Kyle Higashioka

The Yankees drafted catcher Kyle Higashioka in the seventh round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Edison High School in California. Already a plus defensive catcher who is big league ready on that side of the ball, his lackluster offensive numbers to date help disguise what is a pretty good offensive player too.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Kyle Higashioka
Position: Catcher
DOB: April 20, 1990
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He hit just .225 for the Charleston RiverDogs last year despite having one of the better offensive approaches around, prompting nearly everyone who watched him in 2010 to call him one of the unluckiest players they've ever seen.

"Playing in any other park he probably hits six or seven more home runs," Charleston teammate Deangelo Mack said. "Every ball he hit – he might have been the unluckiest guy ever – every ball he hit was hard right at someone. He hit it hard and they were outs. If he gave one a ride the wind would just knock it down."

"Everybody knows ‘Higgy' is a better hitter than .225," Charleston teammate and fellow catcher J.R. Murphy chimed in. "Obviously he's better than that. His approach everyday is exactly the same. He never changes.

"I did see that though, he definitely hit the hardest .225 anybody could ever hit. It is like he's always the unlucky one always hitting it right at guys, hitting hard right at guys."

Even his own manager thought Higashioka was extremely unlucky, but while it would be easy for 'Higgy' himself to throw his hands up in despair, he refuses to blame his pedestrian numbers on anyone or anything other than himself.

"I was hitting balls hard but it still wasn't really the right approach," he said stoically. "I was hitting the ball hard but everything I was doing I was hooking everything and I wasn't using the entire field.

"Once I started using the whole field more, balls started dropping. I think it was almost bad karma for having a bad approach. Someone was trying to teach me a lesson. Once I figured it out, I was hitting pretty well."

To his credit he wound up hitting .290 after the All Star break and smacking as many home runs [three] as he did in the first-half despite having a lot less at-bats.

"Yeah, unlucky, yes," Charleston manager Greg Colbrunn said. "But he also made a lot of adjustments. He probably made more adjustments defensively with his game calling, his tempo, all of the little things that takes to be a big league catcher, he started to do those on a daily basis. That was fun to watch.

"Offensively he didn't have the greatest year but if you break it down to first half and second half, I think he learned a lot and got better. His arm strength is getting better and his release times are extremely consistent. That's one of his biggest tools, the mental part of the game. He showed a lot of aptitude behind the plate, especially for a 19 or 20-year old."

And there lies the rub when it comes to critiquing Higashioka. While his offensive numbers haven't been great, and a case can be made by many that they could easily be better, the fact is he is still a very talented all-around player who now has a chip on his shoulders.

"I feel like I still have something to prove to people," Higashioka said. "I definitely think I'm in a good position to have a successful year next year. I feel like if I keep the same approach, the same mindset, and keep working hard, then things should fall into place."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2010 Charleston .225 320 18 6 24 35 0 31 64 .303 .338
2009 Staten Island .253 217 11 2 32 24 0 26 31 .333 .332
2008 GCL Yankees .261 46 1 1 3 5 0 2 8 .300 .348


Batting and Power. Higashioka's career .238 average belies his offensive approach, bat speed, pitch recognition and selectivity, all of which are very advanced for a younger player. His biggest problem to date has been his propensity to try and pull middle-in fastballs instead of using the whole field more, which he is entirely capable of. He has above average power potential to all fields and he rarely swings at the first pitch, which has also been somewhat of a problem because he often finds himself having to battle back in counts. Finding a better balance of being aggressive earlier in the counts and using the whole field more will allow him to start tapping his .300+ potential.

Base Running and Speed. A below average runner overall, Higashioka is actually an above average runner for a catcher and he is very intelligent in the running game. He won't swipe many bags but he won't make the big running gaffe either.

Defense. Higashioka has widely been known for his plus defensive abilities, especially with the way he works with his pitchers behind the scenes and in calling games. Almost like having a coach on the field, he is very advanced in that regard and he shows true leadership skills [he has taught himself Spanish so he can work better with the Latin American pitchers]. He is also a very good receiver, blocks balls well, and he has both a very quick release and consistent pop times to second base. His biggest defensive shortcoming was his average arm strength, but that improved last year.

Projection. With his innate leadership skills and overall plus defensive game, as well as his big league offensive approach, 'Higgy' safely projects as a Major League backup catcher at minimum. He still has a lot of projection in his bat, however, and he has hidden power too, enough that he has the kind of ceiling to be a big league starting catcher if his game continues to progress. The Yankees are hoping for the latter because he's the kind of strong mental player that an organization would be thrilled to help guide their pitching staff. He has serious breakout potential and the kind of basic foundation in place to eventually be one of the better prospects someday.

ETA. 2014. Higashioka, despite his lackluster overall numbers last year, is destined to be Tampa's starting catcher in 2011.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nVital Statistics:
\r\nName: Kyle Higashioka
\r\nPosition: Catcher
\r\nDOB: April 20, 1990
\r\nHeight: 6'1\"
\r\nWeight: 190
\r\nBats: Right
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\n
\r\nHe hit just .225 for the Charleston RiverDogs last year despite having one of the better offensive approaches around, prompting nearly everyone who watched him in 2010 to call him one of the unluckiest players they've ever seen.
\r\n
\r\n\"Playing in any other park he probably hits six or seven more home runs,\" Charleston teammate Deangelo Mack said. \"Every ball he hit – he might have been the unluckiest guy ever – every ball he hit was hard right at someone. He hit it hard and they were outs. If he gave one a ride the wind would just knock it down.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Everybody knows ‘Higgy' is a better hitter than .225,\" Charleston teammate and fellow catcher J.R. Murphy chimed in. \"Obviously he's better than that. His approach everyday is exactly the same. He never changes.
\r\n
\r\n\"I did see that though, he definitely hit the hardest .225 anybody could ever hit. It is like he's always the unlucky one always hitting it right at guys, hitting hard right at guys.\"
\r\n
\r\nEven his own manager thought Higashioka was extremely unlucky, but while it would be easy for 'Higgy' himself to throw his hands up in despair, he refuses to blame his pedestrian numbers on anyone or anything other than himself.
\r\n
\r\n\"I was hitting balls hard but it still wasn't really the right approach,\" he said stoically. \"I was hitting the ball hard but everything I was doing I was hooking everything and I wasn't using the entire field.
\r\n
\r\n\"Once I started using the whole field more, balls started dropping. I think it was almost bad karma for having a bad approach. Someone was trying to teach me a lesson. Once I figured it out, I was hitting pretty well.\"
\r\n
\r\nTo his credit he wound up hitting .290 after the All Star break and smacking as many home runs [three] as he did in the first-half despite having a lot less at-bats.
\r\n
\r\n\"Yeah, unlucky, yes,\" Charleston manager Greg Colbrunn said. \"But he also made a lot of adjustments. He probably made more adjustments defensively with his game calling, his tempo, all of the little things that takes to be a big league catcher, he started to do those on a daily basis. That was fun to watch.
\r\n
\r\n\"Offensively he didn't have the greatest year but if you break it down to first half and second half, I think he learned a lot and got better. His arm strength is getting better and his release times are extremely consistent. That's one of his biggest tools, the mental part of the game. He showed a lot of aptitude behind the plate, especially for a 19 or 20-year old.\"
\r\n
\r\nAnd there lies the rub when it comes to critiquing Higashioka. While his offensive numbers haven't been great, and a case can be made by many that they could easily be better, the fact is he is still a very talented all-around player who now has a chip on his shoulders.
\r\n
\r\n\"I feel like I still have something to prove to people,\" Higashioka said. \"I definitely think I'm in a good position to have a successful year next year. I feel like if I keep the same approach, the same mindset, and keep working hard, then things should fall into place.\"
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

Year

\r\n

Team

\r\n

AVG

\r\n

AB

\r\n

2B

\r\n

HR

\r\n

RBI

\r\n

R

\r\n

SB

\r\n

BB

\r\n

SO

\r\n

OBP

\r\n

SLG

\r\n 2010\r\n Charleston\r\n .225\r\n 320\r\n 18\r\n 6\r\n 24\r\n 35\r\n 0\r\n 31\r\n 64\r\n .303\r\n .338
\r\n 2009\r\n Staten Island\r\n .253\r\n 217\r\n 11\r\n 2\r\n 32\r\n 24\r\n 0\r\n 26\r\n 31\r\n .333\r\n .332
\r\n 2008\r\n GCL Yankees\r\n .261\r\n 46\r\n 1\r\n 1\r\n 3\r\n 5\r\n 0\r\n 2\r\n 8\r\n .300\r\n .348

\r\n
\r\nBatting and Power. Higashioka's career .238 average belies his offensive approach, bat speed, pitch recognition and selectivity, all of which are very advanced for a younger player. His biggest problem to date has been his propensity to try and pull middle-in fastballs instead of using the whole field more, which he is entirely capable of. He has above average power potential to all fields and he rarely swings at the first pitch, which has also been somewhat of a problem because he often finds himself having to battle back in counts. Finding a better balance of being aggressive earlier in the counts and using the whole field more will allow him to start tapping his .300+ potential.
\r\n
\r\nBase Running and Speed. A below average runner overall, Higashioka is actually an above average runner for a catcher and he is very intelligent in the running game. He won't swipe many bags but he won't make the big running gaffe either.
\r\n
\r\nDefense. Higashioka has widely been known for his plus defensive abilities, especially with the way he works with his pitchers behind the scenes and in calling games. Almost like having a coach on the field, he is very advanced in that regard and he shows true leadership skills [he has taught himself Spanish so he can work better with the Latin American pitchers]. He is also a very good receiver, blocks balls well, and he has both a very quick release and consistent pop times to second base. His biggest defensive shortcoming was his average arm strength, but that improved last year.
\r\n
\r\nProjection. With his innate leadership skills and overall plus defensive game, as well as his big league offensive approach, 'Higgy' safely projects as a Major League backup catcher at minimum. He still has a lot of projection in his bat, however, and he has hidden power too, enough that he has the kind of ceiling to be a big league starting catcher if his game continues to progress. The Yankees are hoping for the latter because he's the kind of strong mental player that an organization would be thrilled to help guide their pitching staff. He has serious breakout potential and the kind of basic foundation in place to eventually be one of the better prospects someday.
\r\n
\r\nETA. 2014. Higashioka, despite his lackluster overall numbers last year, is destined to be Tampa's starting catcher in 2011.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

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