Gary Sanchez is a polarizing player, at both ends of the argument. He can be extremely productive and efficient at the plate and behind it, but the New York Yankees still haven’t found a way to mitigate injury concerns and help his consistency.
Injuries and productivity have been the bane of Sanchez’s existence with the Yanks. His development has been a give and take, seeing one category improve while another decreases. For example, in 2018, he logged 18 homers but committed only six total errors. In 2019, Sanchez smashed 34 homers but recorded 15 errors. He also saw his fielding percentages decrease in the same time frame while his power production increased.
It’s difficult to predict where his career will take him and if he will very develop into a well-rounded catcher. It’s challenging to find a catcher capable of doing it all at any level, so expecting that from Sanchez might be overzealous. However, he has the potential and ability, which is why it can be frustrating to watch.
According to NJ.com, who interviews an anonymous scout, Sanchez could be destined for a first base or DH role:
“I know why Sanchez is catching different this year. The Yankees are trying to alleviate stress on his back and everything else by dropping him down on one knee. I get it. He’s been hurt a lot. But watching Sanchez catch like this, I’m thinking, ‘The only guy who was very successful catching like that was Tony Pena.’
“It’s easy to see why the Yankees are worried about Sanchez’s health. He’s a thick-bodied guy who uses his legs to hit home runs and to hit in general, and the more and more stress that you have bent over for eight or nine innings, it takes a tool on your whole body. And that affects your bat.
“One knee or not, Sanchez is the same guy for me behind the plate. If I’m a pitcher, I’d hate throwing to him because of balls in the dirt. I was there the night this spring when he had four or five passed balls. They charged him with one, but we know it was four or five, and fans were booing him.
“He misses a lot of balls in the dirt in the season, too. A lot. That affects you if you’re a pitcher. With Sanchez, if you throw to the glove all the time, you’re fine. But if you’re a split guy like (Masahiro) Tanaka and you’re supposed to throw the ball in the dirt, Sanchez isn’t going to get to it. Now all of a sudden you’ve got veteran guys who leave a split up in the zone because they’re afraid to throw breaking balls in the dirt with men in scoring position because Sanchez can’t block it.
This breakdown makes complete sense, as he’s allowed 41 passed balls over the last three seasons. Last season he endured seven, which was statistically lower than the previous two years, but he saw other categories declined in the process. As mentioned above, his total errors shot up, and fielding percentage decreased (.992 –> .982). In addition, his caught stealing percentage plummeted to 23%, allowing 36 stolen bases. That’s a 7% increase from 2018 and an additional eight stolen bases.
Those stolen bases can be the difference in winning and losing a game. Factor in all of the adverse fluctuations in Sanchez’s abilities at the plate, and you can make the argument injuries are taking a significant toll on him. Hopefully, utilizing a new stance this year can change everything.