New York Yankees: Cole and Boone praise Sanchez, who is in the middle of a terrible slump

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

The New York Yankees are off to a blistering start to the abbreviated 2020 season. They have the best record in the league ahead of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies, and several stars are streaking at the plate, especially Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela.

Gary Sanchez, the Yankees’ starting catcher, is streaking, but in a negative way. He has only two hits in the season as a whole, and he has only two hits and one walk in 27 plate appearances. That adds up to a putrid .080/.148/.120 line and a negative wRC+ of -22.

Pitch recognition and a lack of contact are severe issues with the New York Yankees’ franchise catcher right now. He is currently running a 51.9 K% and 3.7 BB%, which is terrible. He’s looking especially vulnerable to low and away breaking stuff, more than ever before.

Will the Yankees enjoy vintage Sanchez this year?

But Sanchez is a career .243/.325/.511 line with a 120 wRC+. He’ll get back on track eventually. For now, he’s trying to find his timing at the plate and continues to improve behind the plate, at least according to Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole.

“I think it’s going great,” Cole said to MLB.com about his relationship with Sanchez. “He’s always finding me in between the innings, communicating about what pitches he liked. He picked up on a couple tips in the batter’s box [on Monday], which I thought was really helpful. He’s been on his game behind the dish, especially pitch-calling and picking up some tips here and there.”

The past couple of games suggest that Sanchez may be improving a little bit at the plate, a thesis supported by manager Aaron Boone.

“He had a couple of the games in the Boston series where I thought he was better,” Boone said. “He’s kind of chasing that hit a little bit. He’s just got to continue to trust that he can control the zone and really stay in his legs. When he does, that will take off.”

“It’s not easy to not take the offense out on the field,” Cole said. “As players, we all kind of understand that. It’s easy to rally around a guy that is really taking pride in his defense, even though he may be a little bit frustrated with how it’s going in the batter’s box.”

Yankees: Should we be concerned about Gary Sanchez’s slow start?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The Yankees got their third win of the season after taking down the Orioles by a score of 9-3. New York looked very good offensively and defensively last night, but there is one player that hasn’t contributed to the Yankees’ success. Gary Sanchez hasn’t gotten a hit yet in the first four games of the season, and some fans are concerned about the 27-year old. 

Sanchez has been known to be cold for long periods of time. To me, this is none other than another one of these times. Lots of big-time hitters in the MLB are getting off to awful starts, and you can help but think it’s because of the little time they had to get prepared for the season. Especially for a catcher. To be successful on both sides of the field as a catcher, you need to have a lot of endurance. Sanchez’s endurance will get better the more innings he plays. That will help him focus more and have better at-bats at the plate. 

What is the main concern?

Sanchez is, however, one of the players in the MLB that’s OBP has gotten worse throughout his career. That’s the part that I see most concerning. Sanchez is really starting to become a home run and strikeout only hitter. He is lucky that the Yankees are so stacked on offense because he is able to have bad games like this and have New York win loads of games. 

It seems like over-time, Sanchez has been so focused on improving his defense, he has stayed on the same level hitting wise. In Aaron Judge’s rookie year, he was really bad at avoiding breaking pitches out of the zone. However, Judge has gotten better with that throughout his career. Sanchez, on the other hand, still whiffs at pitches outside the zone the way he did in his rookie year. We haven’t seen much improvement from him in that regard, and that could turn out to be more concerning in the future.

Gary has been noticeably better behind the plate with the help of new catching coach Tanner Swanson. I think it’s time he starts focusing on his struggles offensively, which will make him a more dynamic player in the future.

Sanchez’s power numbers have been off the charts from a catcher standpoint. If he figures out a way to get on base more often, he’ll be the best catcher in the MLB. Until then, he will still hit 25-40 home runs a year and come in the clutch a few times a season. His value will skyrocket if his singles and doubles can outweigh his home runs. Look to see how Sanchez will help the Yankees offensively this season.

Yankees’ Gary Sanchez details just how much better he’s getting behind the plate

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees have made several fundamental changes to their players to help them improve and perform at a higher level.

One of those players has been Gary Sanchez, who has taken a different approach behind the plate to improve his defense. His defining trait comes on the offensive side of the ball with his powerful bat, but his defense is a bit strenuous at times.

His new stance, which he has been working with Tanner Swanson on, has already begun to pay dividends. He was a bit uncomfortable at first with the one knee stance behind the plate, but he is getting much better as the days go by.

“Getting better, much more comfortable and getting to the point where it is second nature to me,’’ Sanchez said of his stance working with Gerrit Cole. “I think it is a result of all the work we have been doing. It has been a lot of work dedicated to assimilate the stance and I think it is making progress.’’

Opening Day didn’t treat Sanchez too well in the batter’s box, as he struck out all three times against Max Scherzer. However, Sanchez was much better behind the plate, framing pitches well despite a lenient Angel Hernandez helping him out.

Every game he gets a bit more comfortable, and his offense should see an uptick as the Yankees dive into the deeper pitchers in opposing team’s rotations.

MUST WATCH: Yankees’ Gary Sanchez crushes homer to second deck in left field

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The star of the night for the New York Yankees heading into the bottom of the fourth inning was Jordan Montgomery, who had six strikeouts and allowed just one batter to reach the bases.

However, catcher Gary Sanchez simply couldn’t let Montgomery have all the attention, as he crashed a home run to deep left field.

Sanchez extended the lead to 2-0, once again showing off his improved patience at the plate.

New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez could be a completely different catcher in 2020

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

It is never too late for a player to develop new skills and become more efficient. New York Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez is attempting to do just that. By changing his technique behind the plate, he hopes to improve his defensive abilities.

“Definitely feel much better now comparing the time back when we started in spring training,” Sanchez said Wednesday. “It’s just, overall, you have more time practicing the new stance and working with the new stance.”

Yankees’ Sanchez has noticed positive benefits from his recent changes

“I definitely feel the improvement,” Sanchez said. “I want to say I have definitely gotten better, especially with pitches low in the zone. At the same time, we still have a lot of work to be done ahead of us. But that’s why we’re here, to keep (working).”

The Yankees have been helping Sanchez improve his pitch framing, which will hopefully benefit his pictures on the mound and increasing their strike rate. At times in the past, Gary was not able to elevate his glove fast enough or make pictures seem closer to the strike zone then they appeared.

However, this is the first real opportunity Sanchez has had regarding an improvement. This past spring, he struggled with minor injuries, which evidently hurt his progression.

“My back held me back a little bit (in the spring), which kind of prevented me from going at it the way I wanted to,” Sanchez said. “The last three months I went back to the DR and worked really hard on it, and all of that I think has helped me get to the point where I am today.”

Tanner Swanson, former catching coach for the Minnesota Twins, has been helping the Yankees’ catcher develop his new skills. While most of the work has been virtual, the past few weeks have been extremely beneficial for Sanchez.

“He would send me video and I’d provide feedback and occasionally we’d jump on a zoom call together and discuss certain variations of some of the positions and moves he was working through,” Swanson said Wednesday. “So I think overall the downtime was really positive because I think it allowed Gary specifically to kind of explore some of the positions and figure out how he could adapt them to his own style. We got to take advantage of some extra time and, ultimately, I think (it) will pay off.”

With a condensed 60-game campaign, the New York Yankees are hoping for any minuscule advantage to be exercised. Any minimal improvement can combine with others to result in a big one, which could be the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs. First, the Yankees have to win enough games to make the post-season, and any given hot or cold streak could curate problems or answers.

WATCH: Yankees’ Gary Sanchez rips home run to left field, showing off offensive power

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

Gary Sanchez is back! Or so we hope. The New York Yankees watched they’re starting catcher rope a home run to left field during the intrasquad exhibition game on Monday evening.

Sanchez has been inconsistent on offense the past few seasons, posting a .186 batting average in 2018 and a.232 batting average in 2019. Last year, he posted a career-high 34 home runs and a solid 77 RBIs over at 396 at-bats. His defense has also been an issue at times, allowing far too many passed balls and seeing his caught stealing percentages decrease exponentially.

A one-knee stance, curated this offseason to help his framing and throwing ability will hopefully be behind the improvement in the category.

However, here’s a look at El Gary’s home run!

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If Sanchez can replicate those numbers, the Yankees will be blessed with the production of their star catcher.

Last week, Sanchez stated that he will be ready for opening day and should have good momentum.

“I think two weeks is going to be enough for me to get ready and catch all nine innings.” Despite the long break, Sanchez didn’t seem to lose a step. He said, “I left to go to the DR because I have a complex there,” where he was working on his “offense and defense.” He finished by saying, “I can tell you, anytime my name is in the lineup, I’ll be ready to go.” Very confident from the young catcher.

WATCH: Yankees’ Gary Sanchez rips double off J.A. Happ to spark offensive return

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees hosted their third intrasquad exhibition game on Saturday evening, with J.A. Happ starting for the first time.

Happ is looking to return from a tumultuous 2019 campaign, as he posted a 4.91 ERA and allowed 34 home runs, a career-high. He also allowed 88 earned runs and struck out 140 batters over 161.1 innings.

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His return is essential for the Yankees during a condensed, regular season where health and starting quality is needed. As management continues to iron out the starting roster and who they can rely on, on an everyday basis, Happ performed adequately in his first exhibition action.

He finished the night with three innings pitched, recording four strikeouts, one walk, and one earned run.

However, one of the more exciting portions of the game was Gary Sanchez and his return to offensive form. He roped a double to the outfield that scored a run.

Sanchez had been struggling the past few games due to a lack of timing, which seemed to alleviate for a moment against one of the Yankees’ starting arms. This was vintage Gary, and the Yankees need to see more of this as they inch closer Opening Day on July 23.

Yankees’ Gary Sanchez is confident he’ll be ready for Opening Day

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez has been working hard to get ready for the 2020 season and thinks he’ll be out there for all nine innings against the Nationals. 

With limited time to get ready, fans are starting to question that. However, Gary Sanchez is very confident that he will be ready. In a press conference yesterday, Sanchez stated, “I think two weeks is going to be enough for me to get ready and catch all nine innings.” Despite the long break, Sanchez didn’t seem to lose a step. He said, “I left to go to the DR because I have a complex there,” where he was working on his “offense and defense.” He finished by saying, “I can tell you, anytime my name is in the lineup, I’ll be ready to go.” Very confident from the young catcher.

Yankees’ Aaron Boone also showed confidence in Sanchez

Boone stated, “from a catching standpoint, the foundation has been very solid” and that he’s “encouraged about where he is right now.” Boone then praised the work that Tanner Swanson has done to keep Sanchez ready. 

Tanner Swanson is a catching coach that the Yankees added to their staff this off-season. Swanson worked with the Twins and Mitcher Garver last year and is teaching Garver’s style of play to Sanchez. Sanchez, no doubt, took a step up defensively last year. In 2018, Sanchez led the league in pass balls allowed in only 653 innings of work. The average catcher can catch up to 1,000 innings in a single season. However, in 2019 Sanchez averaged a passed ball every 86 innings. A huge step up from the previous year. But, it will be interesting to see how Swanson can improve Sanchez as an overall catcher.

Sanchez has always been a force to be reckoned with at the plate but hasn’t reached his full potential from behind the plate. Hopefully, Swanson will work to make Sanchez a complete player. Look out for a lot of new things defensively from Sanchez.

New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez tweaks small detail that could improve his defense significantly

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees are doing everything possible to put themselves in a position to win a World Series in 2020. Every position is being looked at, including catcher, where Gary Sanchez resides.

Sanchez has struggled defensively the past two seasons and his offense has seen a major decline.

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The New York Yankees need the old El Gary back

Since his 2016 season, his offensive efficiency has decreased steadily, with his last quality season being in 2017 when he posted 33 home runs and 90 RBIs. While he was in All-Star in 2019 for his first-half performance, he finished the year with a .232 batting average, 34 homers, and 77 RBIs.

While Sanchez has held up his end of the bargain by hitting plenty of homers, his defense requires more refinement. The league average in caught stealing percentage hovers around 27% the past four years, and Sanchez has been well above that up until 2019. His first two seasons he averaged about 40% but dropped all the way down to 23% last year. He also committed 15 errors and logged a .982 fielding percentage behind the plate. One bright spot — he decreased his past balls from 18 two years ago to just seven last season.

However, Sanchez has been working with new coordinator Taylor Swanson, who was with the Twins last season, on lowering his center of gravity. This includes utilizing just one knee in the dirt to help him frame pitches better and catch with more balance. In addition, it should allow him to extend the bottom of the strike zone and jump up to throw base runners out at second more efficiently.

Of course, this is easier said than done, but with Sanchez losing a bit of weight and adding more muscle, his speed should see an increase.

Experience is everything

In the Yankees’ intrasquad exhibition match on Tuesday night, Sanchez and new pitcher Gerrit Cole showed fantastic chemistry. After a rocky start in the first inning, allowing a Miguel Andujar opposite-field home run, Cole picked up the slack and retired 10/11 batters on 67 total pitches.

In live-action, the experience with Sanchez and Cole is essential for success in the regular season. Expect Sanchez to continue working on his newfound stance behind the plate, which should hopefully improve his defensive abilities.

New York Yankees: Aaron Boone says Gary Sanchez can be the best catcher in baseball

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

Over the last four years, New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has climbed the totem pole of respected players at his position. In his rookie campaign, he came in second in Rookie of the Year voting, and in 2017 he found himself on the All-Star team and ranked 22nd in MVP voting. He also earned a Silver Slugger award. Flashback to 2018, Sanchez played In just 89 games, hitting .186 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs. His offense was abysmal, and minor injuries began to take their toll on his health and efficiency on both sides of the ball.

In 2019, Sanchez earned an All-Star selection, hitting 34 homers, 77 RBIs and a .232 batting average. The major issue with Sanchez hasn’t been his offense, though, despite his low average is at the plate the past two seasons. His defense is the factor that remains questionable. His caught stealing percentages have decreased consistently over the last four years, starting at 41% in 2016 and dropping all the way to 23% in 2019.

There is little evidence to suggest that Sanchez is incapable of being a premium level player behind the plate, but his arm has seen a degradation, and his offensive prowess has dipped. In addition, he had 15 errors on a .982 fielding percentage last season, both career lows. The one category he did improve in was past balls, only letting seven by him over 90 games behind the plate. In 2018, he allowed 18 balls to hit the backstop, a disappointing number that he did manage to improve.

While Sanchez has struggled, manager Aaron Boone is confident he can be one of the best catchers in baseball, per NJ.com:

“He could be the best catcher in the sport,” Boone said. “He’s that talented. He’s had some unfortunate nagging injuries that have come up a little bit the last two years that have altered his season a little bit. He’s still amassed a lot of home runs and at-bats and stuff over the last two years.

“But he’s missed some time, killed some momentum at times. For a young player, and I think for Gary, who burst onto the scene, who was a highly touted prospect (and) came up and took the league by storm, I think sometimes what people forget is catcher is such a demanding position. You don’t often see very young catchers come up and become a central figure on a team.”

The New York Yankees need to keep their star catcher healthy at all costs:

The essential key to El Gary playing at peak performance is health. A ping-pong ball hitting his lower back seems to be the catalyst behind resurfacing injuries these days, but the hiring of new strength and conditioning coach Eric Cressey will hopefully allow him to strengthen his weak points through kinesiology and biomechanics. If Sanchez can play solid baseball, the Yankees will have a great chance at winning a World Series this year.