New York Yankees Analysis: Delving into what’s knocked Gary Sanchez off track

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

For the New York Yankees, the once up and coming star Gary Sanchez‘s baseball career has become in shambles. But what is wrong, and can it be fixed? In 2017 Sanchez became a Yankee star hitting 33 home runs and batting .278. This was after coming in second in the Rookie of the year award. In 2017 is a home run hitting leader; he also an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and came in 22nd in the MVP Voting. Although his defense was not great, he was known for having an arm not to be challenged. Sanchez’s problem is that it has been mostly downhill since then, culminating in his worst season ever in 2020, hitting only .147.

The Yankees proclaimed Sanchez their catcher of the future and stuck to that support until the 2020 season neared its end. Then Sanchez mostly lost his starting catcher position, including in the postseason. The cracks in the “Krackens” armor finally turned the Yankees against him. He was often benched in favor of backup catcher Kyle HIgashioka, who defended better and hit better than Sanchez. He was also designated as Yankee ace Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. It got so bad that in the offseason, the Yankees are even shopping their former star.

This will be an important time for Gary and the Yankees. He ended last season with a slash line of .147/.253/.365. For the last several years, the Yankees had stood by him when he played well and when he was horrible, but that all changed to the point he is no longer the Yankees’ starting catcher.

Sanchez surely wants to stay with the Yankees. In an effort to do that, he is playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. How he can perform there may very well dictate the Yankee’s path forward with him or will seal his fate, and the New York Yankees will move on from Sanchez forever.

There are several problems the Yankees need to fix with Sanchez; one is his lack of quality defense. He has an arm like a rocket that few baseball players would challenge, but that where it ends. He has too many passed balls, and his pitch framing doesn’t seem like it used to be. His inconsistent hitting is another big problem. There is no question for a New York Yankee catcher that he can hit home runs, some monster ones, but like with his defense, that’s where it ends; he strikes out and fails to get on base for his team.

In today’s game, pitchers are throwing more fastballs than ever, and that is where Sanchez’s framing is the worst. Out of 62 catchers, he is the 58th worst when it comes to framing high fastballs. Another problem is ball blocking. Since 2019 only two catchers had more passed balls than Sanchez, and only three catchers were rated worse by Defensive Runs Saved. These stats make his home runs less important to the Yankees.

Sanchez swings and misses far too much often at balls out of the zone. But a more horrifying stat the that he swings and misses more on the pitches he sees most frequently. Sanchez has never been a speed demon on the bases, but he has slowed even more in the most recent years. This also works against Sanchez as the third baseman has more time to field and can take a few more steps backward, which results in a loss of hits for Sanchez.

With Sanchez’s record of going backward and so many issues, age only will make his shortcomings more obvious, which doesn’t spell well for Sanchez remaining a Yankee. With the Yankees taking so long to recognize his downside’s importance, he is now not worth much to the Yankees or any other team. With the Yankees likely not to spend for a J. T. Realmuto next season, we may see Kyle Higashioka as the Yankees starting catcher.

They have other options, such as acquiring one of the best catchers in baseball, Yadier Molina. That acquisition will give the Yankees much better defense but only some improvement in hitting. However, even at his age, Molina’s energy is a definite plus with a team that sometimes seems to lack purpose. With the retirement of Erick Kratz, the Yankees will also need another backup catcher.