Chicago Cubs: P.J. Higgins continues to shine during spring training
As we wind down and move closer to Opening Day, the spot for the 26th man is still up for grabs. Chicago Cubs P.J. Higgins is making his mark and keeping it close as he continues to shine this spring.
Three months ago, I discussed the future outlook for the Chicago Cubs and their catching situation, specifically the battle between P.J. Higgins and top prospect Miguel Amaya. Amaya remains the next guy down the road, however currently, the guy right now the front office and fans should focus their attention is Higgins.
The right-handed hitting backstop is still just 27 years old. It is a strange thing considering the age of Amaya, making it seem as though Higgins is past his prime when, in fact, he is just coming into that time of his prime. Higgins has a substantial amount of experience in the minors, spending his 2019 season between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He slashed .281/.349/.416 in 108 games at the two levels combined last season.
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Amaya, meanwhile, has not seen regular-season competition above Class-A Advanced and, rightfully so as he is only 21 years old. In the immediate for where the Cubs find themselves heading into 2020, Higgins may force the hand of the front office and earn that roster spot heading into the regular season.
Chicago Cubs: A spring to remember
Higgins has become an unlikely source for production so far in spring training. He has seen 15 games of action thus far and has held his own and then some. Through his first 29 plate appearances, Higgins is slashing a remarkable .318/.483/.591. He has forced seven walks and has struck out just four times over that span.
Carrying a 1.074 OPS is also helping his case, and Higgins has displayed power throughout with his two home runs. Amaya is hitting just .160 right now in his 25 plate appearances while facing a lesser amount of quality opposition in the box.
The Cubs, meanwhile, find themselves in an interesting spot. Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini will, of course, be the two catching staples on the Opening Day roster, and the idea for the Cubs to carry a third catcher probably does not make much sense to most fans. Higgins, however, could provide that buffer between Contreras and Caratini and, god forbid, if one were to get hurt either now or early on in the season, Higgins could be the guy to provide additional help without the use of an option.
Chicago Cubs: The coveted 26th man
Right now, it seems as though the competition for the 26th roster spot is coming down to Higgins and outfielder Ian Miller. Miller is a compelling case as he has outplayed his projection so far this spring by a wide margin. The former Minnesota Twins outfielder is slashing .375/.459/.469 with eight stolen bases through 15 games.
Miller is 28 years old, and in his sole season, last year in the big leagues did not perform all that well. The Cubs signed former Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Steven Souza Jr. to a major league contract in the offseason, and all reports read that Souza is healthy and ready to go.
Souza has shown up himself this spring hitting .300 against quality opposition and should make the team no problem. His role will come primarily against lefties, and with the major league contract, he is pretty much a shoo-in for a role.
Higgins would provide that depth previously talked about, and he is a year younger at this point in his career. He is striking out considerably less and ensures that power that Miller does not. I believe it would be a smarter decision to keep Higgins up come Opening Day and give him that opportunity to see what he can do while providing that depth to the lineup.