Higgins, a 29-year-old rookie, has spent time behind the plate and at both third and first base this season, and his numbers are impressive, to say the least.
In 133 plate appearances so far this season, Higgins boasts a .791 OPS and 118 OPS+, both of which are solid, even after a recent 0-for-14 skid heading into action Monday. His role has been limited given the depth chart at catcher and David Ross’ fascination with Frank Schwindel at first base but Higgins is finally getting his chance.
P.J. Higgins should be a staple for the Chicago Cubs to finish this season
No matter where he fits into the lineup defensively, Ross has to make it a point to get Higgins into the game each and every day. His ability to sit behind the dish or cover corner infield spots gives the team flexibility for Willson Contreras and Patrick Wisdom down the stretch. When Contreras needs a day off from catching, Higgins and Gomes are more than capable of stepping up.
Higgins has also done enough at the plate to warrant a few starts as the designated hitter so long as Contreras is catching. It is hard to not be excited about Higgins despite his age and how long it took him to reach this level but he has been sensational – and an unlikely breakout for the Cubs.
Coming into the season, the future for Higgins was less than thrilling. He really struggled in his first MLB action last season and had some competition for a catching job quickly on his tail in the minor leagues.
Higgins posted just one hit in 25 plate appearances last season but was given another chance this season. So far, he has made the most of this latest opportunity.
Miguel Amaya is taking some reps in Double-A to end this season and signs point to him starting next season in Iowa, which would indicate an MLB call-up is quickly approaching for the once highly-touted catching prospect.
Amaya is ranked 16th in the Cubs’ farm system and is the second-ranked catcher, trailing Moises Ballesteros (15th overall). If Higgins is going to make an impact for this team, he might need to take reps at other spots defensively.
Cubs: Where does P.J. Higgins fit for the rest of the season?
Frank Schwindel and Alfonso Rivas should not see the MLB roster again this season. The first base job should belong to Higgins and Wisdom. I would even argue that the two of them should rotate between the corner infield spots to see if either guy is worth penciling into a spot on next year’s roster.
The bat is clearly worth keeping around for Higgins in some capacity. The Cubs gave breakout players from last year’s group a chance to prove it again this season, which backfired, but that should not deter them from doing the same for a player that has shined as a rookie.
Higgins has been especially strong against right-handers this year, with a .918 OPS in 81 plate appearances. He’s loved hitting at the Friendly Confines, too, posting a .906 mark in 22 contests at Wrigley Field.
He has been better defensively than Scwhindel was, his bat has been more consistent than any of the other options at first base and he has the positional flexibility to help this team beyond this year.
With a little bit of experience at third base, there is an option for the Cubs in a pinch if they need someone to man the hot corner. He just so happens to have the ability to play each of the three positions that the Cubs have the biggest question marks with moving beyond this season.
At the very least, the Cubs should explore their options with this guy and determine if he is worth a spot next season. The only way to do that fairly, however, is to give him as many plate appearances as possible before the 2022 season ends.