Yankees Gary Sanchez Now Looks Like Best Choice for AL ROY


Although he hasn’t even played two full months of the big league season, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has a pretty compelling case that he’s been the American League’s most valuable rookie in 2016.

As the 2016 season comes to a close, the idea of New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez winning the American League Rookie of the Year award is no longer the pipe dream it was in the midst of the 23-year-old’s August hot streak.

For the majority of the season, Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer has appeared to have the AL Rookie of the Year award more or less sown up. Even after an uneven performance in the second half, he has 10 wins, a 3.03 ERA, and 7.26 K/9 in 148.2 IP.

However, there are some definite cracks in Fulmer’s case. His 3.89 FIP and 4.00 xFIP suggest he may be closer to a number three or number four starter going forward rather than the ace his run prevention would suggest. His 4.00 ERA through 72 IP in the second half supports the idea that he’s regressing from a lucky first half.

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Going into Tuesday night, Sanchez had already surpassed Fulmer’s WAR total (2.7 vs. 2.6) on the season according to FanGraphs’ metric , despite playing three fewer months of the season. While a tenth of a win certainly isn’t conclusive, the fact that they are so close means that the two players have at the very least provided similar value to their clubs in 2016.

While it’s easy to dismiss Sanchez’s hot start to his career as a Kevin Maas-esque fluke, Statcast data suggests that his production has been the result of skill, not luck. As of this writing his average exit velocity is 94 mph, tied with David Ortiz for ninth best in the major leagues among hitters with at least 100 batted balls.

Could Sanchez hit .327/.393/.698 over a full season? Probably not. On the other hand, Fulmer’s low ERA probably won’t continue either. They are both the result of one or two hot months. However, it is my probably biased opinion that Sanchez is the better player going forward. As a bonus, his debut had more of an impact on his club this season, almost single-handedly keeping New York in the playoff chase long after they should have been eliminated.

Despite his strong case, it would probably take an incredible tear to finish the season to actually land Sanchez the award. He’s three home runs away from 20 on the season and we all know how much voters love round numbers like that. Reaching that milestone is probably the Kraken’s best bet.

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With a dozen games remaining, that is a tall order, but certainly not out of reach for the Yankees young superstar based on what we’ve seen.