The New York Yankees have an enigma in Gary Sanchez, one that continues from 2018 right up to the game on Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles where he was picked off third base in the sixth inning with the Yankees holding onto a one-point lead.
What is he thinking, has too often been uttered by Yankees fans in the past year, as they watched him lead the league in passed balls (18) behind the dish and stink on offense (.186/.291/.406).
New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez seems to be regressing
In 2017, Sanchez was as good as advertised, an offensive juggernaut with a .278/.354/.531 slash line with 33 home runs, 90 RBIs and he lead the majors in pull percentage (51.6%). On defense, he had the best arm strength (87.8), according to Wikipedia, and the third-best average pop time to second base (1.93 seconds) of all MLB catchers; however, at the same time he tied for the league lead in passed balls with 16. Enigma, right?
So far in ‘19, passed balls have not been his problem, rather, he has four throwing errors from behind the dish, a .946 Fielding Percentage and he’s 5-for-13 (.217) on offense.
He has three homers and looks like the Sanchez of 2017 on those. His hard-hit rate is at 55.6%, according to Scott Thompson of SNY.com, that combined with his 66.7% fly ball rate is encouraging for Yankee fans. Thompson states that:
“…having a higher fly ball rate with good exit velocities will obviously lead to more round trippers and extra base hits off the fence”
Sanchez is trending in the right direction and some reports claim that he has just hit into bad luck -otherwise known as hitting into the shift-this season and fans should be encouraged by the hard-hit homers off Sanchez’ bat that his offense is getting hot.
There are many questions about Sanchez, including whether he’s focused enough behind the plate to overcome his issues and whether he can live up to his 2017 break-out numbers.
The Yankees are fully invested in Sanchez, considering they were not players in the J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes this offseason. Austin Romine is not in line to take a full-time position behind the plate for the Yankees. Sanchez is the man. The Yankees need him to step up on defense and offense, especially with the number of players the Yankees have on the Injured List.
Sanchez is an enigma, but not insoluble. He needs to combine the confidence and swagger of his rookie season with his growing experience and responsibilities as a veteran.
Fans who are calling for his head just need to be patient and they will likely be rewarded with a solid season from the now veteran backstop. Steamer projects he’ll hit .245 this season with 27 homers and I believe most fans would sign on for this type of production from him at the plate.
Defensively, Sanchez continues to work on areas of his game that need improvement and fans will continue to hold him accountable for his miscues, as they should.
The 2019 season is just beginning, let’s give Sanchez a chance to put it all together and achieve a balanced, elite performance on both sides of the plate. The Yankees obviously believe he is capable of doing it and so do I.