THE BRONX, NY– Yankee fans like myself have been between a metaphorical rock and a hard place when it comes to slugger Gary Sanchez over the past few years, with much of the fanbase ready to move on from the now 28-year-old former all-star. But I have asked myself, “is it too soon?” Is there still a glimmer of hope he can revive his career as one of the best hitting catcher in the MLB? Let’s take a look!
All the way back in 2016, when I heard that our young top catching prospect was finally ready to take on the starting role, I was excited. And boy did he start off to be everything we were looking for and more, as the Yankees were in a reloading stage, looking for young talent. He played in only 53 games, but he had a ridiculous .299 average with 20 homers and slugged .657, placing himself second in AL Rookie of the Year voting, and giving Yankee fans hope that we found our next franchise star. Soon after, Aaron Judge, and the rest of the young budding Yankees made it through the ranks of the minor leagues and it seemed like this core group of young sluggers were the real deal. Gary and Judge went on to have a monster 2017 season, with Judge placing 2nd in the MVP and Gary hitting .278 with 33 homers in just 122 games.
Things were looking great, but one of the knocks on Gary from the start was his fielding. Every Yankee fan looked at Gary and said “ok we will take the sub-par fielding if he can hit the way he does”. As a Yankee fan, I was ok with Gary staying behind the plate because of the rocket arm he has, and I thought that if he can just provide some average fielding and he hits .270 with 30 homers, then so be it. But here is the catch…. this just hasn’t happened, and the fielding has not improved all that much. Over the past 3 years, albeit filled with injuries, he has hit a combined .188, with 2020 being his worst statistical season by far, hitting to a .147 clip with 64 strikeouts in 49 games.
He struggled so much this past season that management and the front office sat him down and benched him for Kyle Higashioka. Gerrit Cole asked for Gary not to be the catcher when he pitches, which says a lot as Cole is one of those guys that controls the game himself. With so much promise out of the gate for Gary Sanchez, the 28-year-old 2-time all-star looks to be in “last chance” mode with the Pinstripers.
I think there is still hope. I agree with the Yankees keeping him around for one more season due to the shortened season that saw so many players struggle. It is smart to give Gary one more chance as he is just 28 years old after all. If he can bounce back and find himself again, he might return to being one of the best hitting catchers in the MLB. It seems like he has gotten healthy and is getting extra reps in the Dominican Winter League. Hopefully he can come into 2021 with a fresh mindset, a clean slate, and improved fielding mechanics. Most importantly, the ability to show Yankee fans why they jumped for joy when he would come to the plate.
While he does have a lot of pressure to perform in 2021, he needs to remember at the end of the day we all know the talent he has and as Yankee fans,we are cheering for his success in 2021. Hopefully Gary returns to that franchise star once again, but only time will tell.