We’ve reached the point of our report card series where all the major names and key players from the 2019 Yankees have been completed. It’s now time for some of the more random members of the roster.
From a guy who had some genuinely fun moments in pinstripes, to someone who many of you may have forgotten about, let’s look back at the 2019 seasons of some of the various leftover position players.
2019 Statistics: 23 games, 69 plate appearances, .250/.294/.438, 3 home runs, 12 RBI, 12 runs, 91 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR
2020 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control until 2025
While not reaching the status of Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, or Cameron Maybin, Estrada was another good example of the Yankees’ “Next Man Up” success stories in 2019.
The 23-year old was briefly called up in early April before being sent back down before playing a game. He returned later that month among the cavalcade of injuries and made his major league debut on April 21st. Two days later, he recorded his first two major league hits, and his first RBI three days after that. He stayed in the majors through early June and had an .841 OPS when he was sent down when Didi Gregorius returned. He played a further 10 games in August and September and went just 2-for-14 in that stretch, lowering his overall season numbers.
If the Yankees don’t bring back Gregorius, it wouldn’t be shocking if Estrada makes the team as a backup infielder next season. If his 2019 is to be believed, he’s far from a bad option.
2019 Statistics: 18 games, 57 plate appearances, .214/.211/.464, 3 home runs, 11 RBI, 8 runs, 65 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR
2020 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration eligible
In his first two seasons in the majors, Higashioka, at first, threatened to break the record for most at-bats without a hit to start a career. When he then got one, it was a home run, which he repeated in his next two hits and appeared to be a children’s novel come to life.
His third season in the majors has featured him doing another weird thing. Higashioka finished his 2019 in the bigs with a batting average higher than his on base percentage. He pulled that off by not walking or getting hit by a pitch while hitting one sacrifice fly.
To be a little more serious, Higashioka’s stint in the majors in 2019 was better than either of his first two. While a 65 wRC+ isn’t exactly world beating, it’s an improvement from 53 in 2018, and a big jump from -73 from 2017. Between those marginal gains, his defense appearing to rate pretty well, and the good numbers he put up in Triple-A, that has led to rumors that the Yankees might forego re-signing free agent Austin Romine and moving Higashioka into the backup catcher slot. If they decide against that, then Higashioka is about as good a third-string option that you’ll find.
2019 Statistics (with Yankees): 12 games, 37 plate appearances, .219/.324/.313, 0 home runs, 3 RBI, 5 runs, 76 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR
2020 Contract Status: A member of the Toronto Blue Jays
He’s not the biggest question mark who played for the Yankees in 2019, but Valera is probably one of the more anonymous members of this past season’s team.
After claiming him from the Giants in May, the Yankees called up Valera in early June. After just one game, he was sent back down before returning to the bigs in August. He played just 12 games in a mostly forgettable stint. The highlight of his time in New York was an RBI single he had as part of a seven-run inning the Yankees put up against Chris Sale on August 3rd.
His last game with the Yankees was on September 14th against the Blue Jays. A couple days later, he was DFA’d when Luis Severino was activated. That Blue Jays team picked him up and his first game back in the majors was September 22nd against the Yankees, so that’s fun.