Yankees: Gary Sanchez continues his incredible start to the season
Gary Sanchez continues to hit the ball further and harder than anyone in baseball. After hitting yet another home run on Saturday the Yankees catcher now has 11 on the season in just 19 games which ties him for the most in the American League.
It sure is great to have the Kraken of old back in the Yankees lineup. It’s been well publicized what a miserable season Sanchez had in 2018 but he has certainly turned the page so far this season and reestablished himself as the top offensive catcher in all of baseball.
During the offseason, a lot of fans were advocating for the Yankees to trade Sanchez for former Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Thankfully Brian Cashman and company never really considered doing so because they knew it would be a huge mistake to give up on Sanchez and his talent after one down year. Despite all his struggles a season ago the coaching staff and the front office tripled down on him with their support knowing that eventually, the Sanchez of 2016-17 would return.
Just over a month into the season, Sanchez is not only the leading contender for AL Comeback Player of the Year but he’s also a legitimate early-season MVP candidate.
Stats so far: .271, 11 HR, 21 RBI, .771 SLG %, 1.126 OPS
Sanchez has posted these numbers despite missing 11 games with a left calf strain that forced him to the IL on April 13th. Prior to that, he hit six home runs in his first nine games which included a three-homer game in Baltimore back on April 7th.
Following his activation from the IL on April 24th Sanchez looked lost at the plate in his first nine at-bats going hitless and striking out seven times. He probably should’ve played more than just one rehab game but his struggles didn’t last for very long. In his third game back last Saturday against the Giants, he snapped out of his mini-funk with a 467 ft. grand slam, the first of his young career and on Sunday he hit another one, this time only a measly 430 ft.
Since then Sanchez has returned to form and it seems like every time an opposing pitcher makes a mistake in the strike zone he’s making them pay with a tape measure home run. On Friday he had his second multi-homer game of the season and the 12th of his career.
In just his 284th career game Sanchez became the third fastest player in big league history to hit his 80th home run behind Ryan Howard (245) and teammate Aaron Judge (264). His second home run of the night and the 81st of his career left the ballpark at 118.3 mph. All five of his home runs over the past week have been at least 412 ft, all registering at over 110 mph.
When it comes to barreling up a baseball Sanchez has done it better than anyone in the game thus far according to James Smyth of the YES Network.
The key to Sanchez’s turnaround this season obviously has a lot to do with him being healthy but his ability to lay off pitches out of the strike zone has also played a huge role. Now that Sanchez has gotten his timing back he’s laying off those breaking balls down and away. For most of last season, we saw him chase a ton and pitchers would continue to throw balls in the dirt until he showed he had the discipline to lay off.
Saturday afternoon was a perfect example of how locked in Sanchez is of late. After falling behind in the count during his first two at-bats he ended up working the count full and eventually drew a walk both times by laying off a curveball in the dirt. In his fourth and final at-bat that was the case again but on the payoff pitch he got a fastball up in the zone and deposited it into the Twins bullpen 444 ft. away.
When Sanchez does the most damage it’s usually when he gets himself into fastball counts. He’ll also a punish a hanging breaking ball with the best of them but if he can consistently force the opposition to challenge him with fastballs he’s going to have a monster season.
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It’s still very early in the season and Sanchez has proven to be very streaky since entering the big leagues but I think it’s safe to say the days of him hitting .185 are far behind him. Now that he’s finally healthy and his plate discipline is better than ever the sky is the limit for Sanchez and a 40 home run, 100 RBI season is certainly within his reach.
With all the injuries the Yankees have suffered so far they desperately needed Sanchez to step up and help carry the load offensively. With each passing day, the Yanks are getting healthier but three of their top sluggers in Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton are all still weeks away from returning.
Getting Miguel Andujar back on Saturday and Clint Frazier on Monday will provide a big boost but if they’re going to catch Tampa atop the AL East they need Sanchez and his bat to continue to lead the way.