Every year seems to result in a downward spiral for New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez. At 28 years old, he still in his physical prime, but following his 2017 campaign he posted a .278 average with 33 homers, he’s gradually taken steps backward. While he did hit 34 homers in 2019, he finished with a .232 average and struck out 28% of the time.
You could argue that Sanchez is simply the type of player that trades strikeouts for homers, and that is 100% justifiable. However, his inconsistencies have begun to create confusion within the fanbase, specifically regarding his future with the team and whether the Yankees can trust him at the position over the long term.
His facial expressions during games don’t scream excitement or joy, but rather frustration and sadness. In 2020, Sanchez had his worst season yet, logging a .147 average with 10 homers and 24 RBIs. He recorded a career-high 36% strikeout rate and his first negative WAR (-0.1).
According to one former star catcher, Sanchez is suffering more mentally than physically, and I would tend to agree.
“He doesn’t enjoy baseball right now,” Rodriguez told WFAN. “He feels like…he comes to the ballpark, and it’s a depressing thing for him right now. That’s what I see when he’s playing.”
A lot is riding on Sanchez, who is trying extremely hard to cement himself as a long-term solution at catcher, but the pressure seems to be getting to him. Playing for the Yankees is not an easy task, as New Yorkers can be harsh, and the expectations are lofty. Sanchez has lived up to them in the past, but fans look toward the future and what you can provide them, and he simply hasn’t delivered.
“I think he has too much pressure on himself,’’ Rodriguez said. “He’s trying to do too much. I’ve talked to him a few times, and he’s very positive. But Gary plays in an organization and in a city where obviously, you have to do a good job pretty much every night.”
Mentally, Sanchez needs to work on his confidence and mindset, as big moments pass him by without any fight. On occasion, he launches a moon ball into the bleachers, but those moments fade into the abyss quickly with each strikeout.
“That’s the part of the game that he needs to work the most,” Rodriguez said. “The pressure part of the game he needs to work on. He needs to breathe, he needs to relax himself. He needs to believe that he’s a great player. Now because [the mental] part of his game is not there, he feels like everything else he doesn’t have.”
This is sage advice from the former All-Star, who understands what it takes to be a dominant player in the MLB. Rodriguez played with the Yankees during 2008 for 33 games, so he seen a small sample size of what the expectations are.
For a player who enjoyed 21 years in the MLB, Sanchez might consider listening in to his advice and taking it to the bank. There’s no question that Sanchez has the skill set to be a dominant player offensively and defensively, but mentally he simply hasn’t done himself any favors.