Gerrit Cole's personal catcher will also be on a plane to San Diego. Kyle Higashioka was the Yankees' main backstop this season, promoted from backup, as their main catcher Jose Trevino sat for over 100 games with a wrist injury. Prior to this season, Higgy was most notable for his connection to Gerrit Cole, who spurned Gary Sanchez by choosing to make all of his starts with Higgy when he joined the team in 2019. Higashioka managed to put up decent offensive numbers this year, the best in his career (.236/.274/.413) with 10 home runs and 34 RBI. Though some aspects of his performance behind the plate are average-to-poor, his framing is in Baseball Savant's 90th percentile.
It's unclear exactly how Higgy will fit into the Padres' catching staff, which sports Brett Sullivan and Luis Campusano on their 40-man after Austin Nola was non-tendered and Gary Sanchez's future in free agency is still undetermined, though reports have indicated that the Padres may be angling toward a reunion with Sanchez. If he does return to San Diego, a Sanchez/Higashioka main/backup catcher reunion seems highly plausible.
Pitching prospect Drew Thorpe was a second round pick for the Yankees in 2022, ranked as their No. 7 prospect and MiLB's 99th overall. In his first year in the minors, he pitched 139 1/3 innings, 109 in High-A with the Hudson Valley Renegades and the rest in Double-A with the Somerset Patriots for a 2.52 ERA and an impressive 182 strikeouts on the year. With an ETA of 2025 for a landing in the major leagues, Thorpe is working quickly through the minor league system and was coveted by the Yankees for his status as their second most promising pitching prospect after Chase Hampton.
The draw to Thorpe is his changeup, which attracted scouts to him in the first place while he was playing in college at Cal Poly. He was recruited there as a two-way player; before we get too excited, it seems like that instinct/skill set isn't being nurtured in the minor leagues, but he's been able to focus in on his arsenal, which includes a fastball and slider along with the changeup. MLB Pipeline predicts he'll fit right into a starting role toward the middle of a rotation.