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Yankees Mailbag: Kyle Higashioka, prospect hugging, and no-hitters

The mailbag arrives to answer your questions on a variety of topics.

New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians Photo by: 2021 George Kubas/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Good morning everyone, it’s time to head back into the mailbag for more of your Yankees questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Ben K. asks: Do you think that Kyle Higashioka is the new Yankees’ everyday catcher?

So Higashioka has earned a bit more playing time than anticipated from Opening Day, effectively splitting the starts with Gary Sánchez currently. This is more than fair given their respective performances so far, with Higashioka outplaying expectations and Sánchez slumping after a decent start to the year. An even split allows both catchers to remain connected to all of the starting pitchers and keep a working rhythm going as their backstops, while also allowing for established pairs like Higashioka and Gerrit Cole to be utilized regularly without too much concern.

Do I think Higashioka will end up with the lion’s share of the starts this year? No, I can’t see that happening. I think that there’s a decent chance for regression to the mean for both parties, and that will end up preventing one from outright usurping the other this year. This system is probably the best compromise that the Yankees could have — too much of Higashioka and he may get exposed in the larger sample size, but Sánchez hasn’t played well enough to earn ~130 starts.

Headband RJ asks: Do we prospect hug too much, and should we stop doing that?

In general, yes, the Yankees place a high value on their prospects and have declared several players “untouchable,” even when the rest of the league’s consensus on said players isn’t nearly as high. That’s not necessarily a bad thing to do — there’s a league consensus on plenty of prospects who will almost assuredly not live up to that potential, while undervalued picks become household names in The Show.

That being said, the Yankees’ track record for their recent prospect call-ups has been spotty. They’ve had a good eye on trading certain prospects, like Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler, and Blake Rutherford — who were all dealt at the 2017 deadline. They’ve also held steadfast on players like Clint Frazier and Miguel Andújar to mixed results.

Judging prospects and whether to deal them or not is a bit of a crapshoot, but its important to consider context in a lot of these scenarios. The Yankees are a team currently in contention for a title with an established core and the financial might to remain relevant perpetually. They should be safe to throw caution to the wind more often than not when it comes to these types of negotiations, but it takes two to make a deal. The farm system isn’t quite as vaunted since the graduations of players like Judge, Torres, and Severino, and the question of making another player “untouchable” falls on Jasson Dominguez’s head now. It’s more than fair to want to bet on his potential, but there will be plenty of time in between for second-guessing and readjusting our perspective here.

Steve F. asks: Given the shift in advantage between pitchers and hitters, how “special” is a no-hitter in 2021?

Pitching certainly seems to be outperforming hitting leaguewide of late, and this year has had a number of no-hitters already. It’s not an unusual thing to have a particular year with an abundance of no-hitters, though the pace we’re on course for this year would be something extraordinary. All that being said, I still think a no-hitter is an incredible achievement and certainly a special moment.

It’s taken until this year for all 30 MLB teams to finally have someone who pitched a no-hitter for their club, and even then several franchises still only have one instance of a pitcher dominating a lineup from start to finish. The Yankees have more than their fair share of no-hitters, but none since David Cone’s perfect game in 1999 (the eighth-longest current drought in baseball). Very few Yankees have come close to putting together a no-hit bid in the time since — Mike Mussina, Phil Hughes, and CC Sabathia are the only guys I can recall having especially deep threats.

It’s something I would love to see, whether it be in person or just on television, but part of the magic of a no-hitter is you have no clue when one will pop up.