Chicago Cubs: PJ Higgins deserves your attention this spring

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

Amidst more trade rumors, the catching position may soon be in question for the Chicago Cubs. Willson Contreras is under contract through 2022, but has been subject of trade rumors the past few years and the future of the position is presumably Miguel Amaya’s after that.

However, Amaya is not quite ready yet, and the Cubs need somebody else to emerge from a depth standpoint. PJ Higgins has the most experience of any catcher in the minor leagues, and it’s his time to prove it.

Higgins will be 28 in May, which is a little old for MiLB standards, but he broke out in 2019 with a .281/.349/.416 slash line across two levels with a career-high 10 home runs. Over five seasons in the minors, his career slash line is .272/.357/.367.

The Cubs have a lot of catching talent in the lower levels, most notably new signees Ethan Hearn and Ronnier Quintero, but due to COVID-19 neither have played any games yet.

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Amaya has shown some good power, with 12 home runs and 11 in 2018 and ’19, respectively.  His career slash line in the minor leagues is .243/.334/.375, an OPS of .709.

He’s still got room to grow offensively – but he’s shown plenty of promise. Defensively. he’s already very strong behind the plate.

Amaya has thrown out 37 percent of baserunners in his career, which is an outstanding number. That would rank fourth in the Majors, with Roberto Perez leading big league catchers at a 41.3 percent caught stealing rate.

Contreras has thrown out 31.5 percent of baserunners trying to steal, which ranks 13th across baseball. With numbers like Amaya’s, it’s clear that he’s the future behind the dish for the Cubs, but they may need a stopgap to get there, and Higgins could be the guy.

Higgins has thrown out 34 percent of baserunners, which would rank eighth in the Majors. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising in the least to finally see Higgins get a shot in the Majors this year should Contreras or Austin Romine get hurt or wind up traded. Being catchers, the likelihood of both of them getting through the season unscathed is slim. Contreras has only played more than 120 games once.

That’ll be a good chance for the Cubs to see how Higgins performs at the Major League level; how he calls a game, his pitch framing, his pitch blocking, all the catcher jazz. It’s not uncommon for the Cubs to carry three catchers at certain points in the season, and if Higgins impresses enough, they could very well do it again.

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Higgins will certainly start in the Minors, but there is no reason he shouldn’t get his chance to finally see what he’s got with the Cubs. Chicago needs big league-level depth at the position and he’s certainly anxious to get a chance to prove himself.