Yankees: Gary Sanchez could return to the lineup for big west coast trip

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Gary Sanchez
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Gary Sanchez /

The Yankees have been extra cautious with Gary Sanchez as he continues to recover from his second groin strain of the season. As much as they’ve missed him they haven’t rushed him back.

Sanchez has now missed 32 games (20-12) during this current DL stint but the hope is that he can return to the lineup in a week when the Yankees start a huge series in Oakland against the A’s.

He made a big step toward his return on Saturday when he played a rehab game for the Yankees Gulf Coast League team. He went 0-3 with a walk and a run scored as the DH in what was his first game action since July 24th. Now the plan is for Sanchez to join the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Monday to play in a road series this week against Lehigh Valley.

The Yankees will head out west for an extended road trip starting Sep. 3rd against the aforementioned A’s and manager Aaron Boone said it was possible that Sanchez could be back in the lineup by then. The same goes for Didi Gregorius who is on the DL as well with a bruised left heel.

That’s huge news because with matchups against the A’s and the Mariners ahead of them it sure would help to have both of them back in the lineup. The Yankees need all the help they can get but unfortunately, Aaron Judge still hasn’t started swinging a bat and he likely won’t be back by then.

The Yanks are a safe bet to make the playoffs but if they can’t catch Boston atop the division it’s extremely important that at the very least they hold onto the first wild-card spot and host that one-game playoff. Getting back Didi and Sanchez will help with that, especially if Sanchez can regain his All-Star form from a season ago.

Sanchez’s struggles this season have been well advertised and it’s really hard to understand. He was still one of the best power hitting catchers in baseball prior to his first hamstring strain, but his average still sits under .200 at an abysmal .188.

It’s been more than just offensive struggles as Sanchez has been highly scrutinized for his defense behind the plate as well. He knows he needs to be better in that area and that he has to cut down on the passed balls and wild pitches because come October you can’t afford any of those and expect to win. Despite his defensive struggles, Sanchez does bring a cannon of an arm to the table and an ability to control the running game. The Yankees are excited to be getting that back because they are going to face some teams who like to run this postseason.

Now back to his offense.

Coming into the season many including myself believed Sanchez was the Yankees best pure hitter and that he’d be amongst the team leaders in batting average. Instead, he’s at the very bottom and a lot of that has been due to a lack of plate discipline. Sanchez has been plagued by breaking balls from right-handed pitchers all season (.173 BA vs. RHP). He doesn’t see a lot of fastballs during his at-bats because pitchers know he might chase out of the zone.

One thing Sanchez always did well before this season was hit the ball the opposite way with power. That’s something we haven’t seen enough of from him this season. We’ve seen him stick with that big leg kick without cutting down on it and it’s had him in pull mode trying to crush the ball.

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When you have a leg kick that big it can mess with your timing at times, especially on off-speed pitches. With Sanchez, he’s opening up his body too early because he’s trying to pull the ball and it’s left him vulnerable and unable to keep his hands back to take the ball the other way.

I’m no hitting coach but it’s an adjustment Sanchez clearly has to make because when he comes back pitchers are going to continue to attack him with a heavy dose of breaking balls until he shows he can lay off.

I think another one of the reasons his average has dipped so much is because he’s tried to do too much to make up for the lackluster numbers. When he comes back he needs to realize that he’s not going to put up the numbers he was hoping for entering the season and all he can do now is focus on having productive at-bats and playing solid defense to help the team win.

If he can simplify his approach and take things one at-bat of the time he can still be a huge part of this Yankee lineup and make up for what’s been a nightmare season to this point. He can also earn back the trust of Yankee fans by helping the team make a deep October push.

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This is a big opportunity for Sanchez to prove to everybody he’s a much better player than what he’s been and a chance for him to show management that he’s still a huge part of the core that is expected to lead the Yankees to another dynasty.

As good as Austin Romine has been he’s no Gary Sanchez and if this Yankee team wants to reach their goal of winning a championship they need El Gary to do so.