Yankees: Can new coach make Gary Sanchez an above-average catcher?


After three seasons with the Twins as a minor league catching specialist, Tanner Swanson has been lured away by the Yankees to become their major league catching and quality control coach.

While there are some in baseball circles that believe Gary Sanchez is destined to become a full-time designated hitter inevitably, the Yankees aren’t ready to give up on the defensive development of their starting catcher.

Therefore, the Bombers have hired catching guru, Tanner Swanson, who previously spent three seasons with the Twins, where he received much praise for turning Mitch Garver into an above-average major league backstop capable of securing 4.2 runs above average in 2019.

So can Swanson do the same for Sanchez?

Before being employed by Minnesota, Swanson worked with catchers at the University of Washington and even opened D1 Coaching, a catching, and consultation business in 2015.

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In an interview with Dan Hayes of The Athletic, Garver, who had a breakout season, both with the stick and glove in ’19, credited Swanson for his career resurgence.

"“It was pretty much everything I needed to accomplish,” Garver said, according to Hayes. “I had to be a suitable defender and without the help that Tanner gave me I don’t think I would have put myself into position to really be a true option for a starting catcher. I needed to improve on a lot of things and he helped me do that. It was something that needed to happen.”"

For all the schtick that Sanchez gets for his less than stellar defensive play, he did allow less passed balls in 2019 (7) as compared to last season (MLB-leading 18).

Unfortunately, El Gary committed 15 errors in ’19, up from six — threw out 23 percent of would-be base stealers, falling from 30 percent a season ago and produced a -5.1 in regards to framing runs above average.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Sanchez ranked as the 97th catcher in baseball when it came to fielding runs above average. That’s not good, although, as Matt Wallach of Fangraphs points out, catchers that have traditionally improved their blocking stats have also experienced decreased output in their framing.

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Therefore, it’ll be Swanson’s job to bring all of Sanchez’s defensive tools above water. No, it won’t be a simple task, but at least The Kraken has shown he’s amendable to some improvement while wearing the tools of ignorance.