You may have noticed that Jose Trevino slowly taking over as the everyday catcher for the New York Yankees. While I was intrigued by the potential of Kyle Higashioka’s batted ball profile, his inability to make consistent contact has been apparent, at least so far. That’s opened the door for Trevino, who was quietly acquired just before the season.
The immediate returns on the Trevino deal have been wonderful. He has very clearly jumped Higashioka in the depth chart. He is the better defender and has been putting the ball in play with relative success, to the tune of a 95 wRC+ start. Anything near league average offensive output would be a coup, but it’s not the focus of Trevino’s game.
Trevino’s carrying tool is his glove. His connection with pitchers throughout games is clear when you watch him, and there is a clear statistical argument in favor of Jose Trevino as the everyday catcher. His 100th percentile framing in 2022 means has stolen and held strikes better than anybody in baseball. In a rotation with pitchers throwing whirlies with more than 17 inches of horizontal movement on the regular, it is vital to have a catcher who can handle a variety of pitchers and pitches with such poise.
This is a breakdown of Trevino’s strike rate in each part of the shadow zone. Statcast defines the shadow zone as the area around the edges of the strike zone. Those edges extend from a ball width within the zone to one ball width outside the zone. A catcher can steal strikes, or they can maintain strikes. In the chart above, the redder a given zone is, the better Trevino is relative to league average strike rates.
In zone 11, he is the best in the league. In zone 17, he is second best. And in zone 19, he is second best. You can view the leaderboard for each zone here. Why are these zones in particular important for a Yankees catcher? Well, I already told you. With so many righties throwing a combination of sweeping sliders and big time whirlies, it is crucial to have control when presenting those pitches. The same goes for high-spin, high-velocity fastballs up in the zone. The Yankees’ best two pitchers, Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, certainly appreciate keeping those pitches strikes.
Those are a couple impressive frames up on Trevino’s glove side. For him, it’s about receiving the ball softly no matter where the pitch is. His setup and pre-pitch movement are consistent. Some might say he isn’t giving a good enough target and to that I’d say, the slight angle he sets up with his body gives a great target for Cole and Montgomery.
With three different pitch types here, Trevino stays smooth, beats the balls to the presentation spot and acts like a vacuum. That’s the key, the presentation. In each of these zones, he is confident as can be in his ability to get a strike call from the umpire, even if the pitch is out of the zone.
He changes his posture accordingly. For pitches high in the zone, the presentation point is at his neck while he stands upright. It stays at his neck even when he gets into his low stance. If he maintains the presentation point in the same part of his body, he gives the ump a reference point, or rather, a deception point. As long as the pitch cleanly comes in around Trevino’s face, the ump is more inclined to call a strike!
Not all catchers do this. The reasons can vary, but this is only something the best catchers do. Your grip strength needs to be good no matter what, but you also need to be able to control the core of your body at different levels of hinge. Higgy is a good framer, but he cannot get as low in his hips as Trevino can. Get used to seeing Trevino do this for the Yankees. He is going to be around as long as he can be even remotely serviceable with the bat. When you can handle a rotation like he has thus far, it is beyond difficult to tell your pitcher he won’t be behind the plate every game. He may not be a big bopper, but he can be crucial to the Yankees’ success this season.