Yes, it’s only spring training. And not only is it only spring training, but it’s also only a week into spring training. We haven’t learned anything definitive yet.
That doesn’t mean Sanchez hasn’t looked much better thus far, attacking pitches to all fields and seeming content to rifle a single the other way instead of selling out for excess power.
But, as impressed as we are, it’s not our decision to engage the hype train. You can thank Aaron Judge for that.
Approached in his postgame media session Sunday about Sanchez’s progress ahead of a make-or-break year, Judge didn’t just endorse his teammate.
He gave him the highest praise a big-leaguer can give another, putting him starkly in the middle of the MVP conversation.
Our inclination is to cringe here, but whatever motivational tactic Judge and the Yankees want to employ, we trust them.
And — in the smallest of sample sizes — Sanchez has looked much more like his 2016 edition that tore up the American League at an MVP-caliber rate in the season’s second half.
Can Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez…actually win MVP?
We’re not going to go that far — but, most importantly, he doesn’t need to. A consistent full season in a measured form of attack mode would place Sanchez behind the plate in the All-Star Game, which is all this Yankees team really needs out of him.
The catcher is a two-time honoree in the midsummer classic, but his 2019 All-Star season went off the rails; in an injury-riddled second half, he hit just .207/.318/.467 with 10 homers in 38 games and, on the year, hit .174 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
An All-Star season with better clutch stats is something the Yankees could use from Sanchez, and he has shown renewed patience and poise so far this spring, hitting .333/.455/1.000 with a pair of homers.
Even the team’s most meticulous student of hitting, DJ LeMahieu, has noticed the beginnings of a transformation.
Sanchez’s positivity was never questioned last year, but as the catcher has stated this offseason, it got frustrating for him to know he’d been labeled a failure based on 60 abhorrent games, which constituted a full season for the first time in this game’s history.
He’s responded the way we all hoped he would, thus far, and Judge, LeMahieu, and the men in that locker room have certainly taken notice.
It’s a start.