Most agree that Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has had a terrific spring training so far. The big question is whether his excellent play will carry over into the 2021 season.
Following the Kraken’s disappointing play during the shortened 2020 season and his benching in the playoffs, he was determined to turn things around and perform a lot better in 2021.
Sanchez devoted a part of his offseason playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic to shorten his swing. He swung the bat well in winter ball, but faltered at the end of league play.
He then reported to Spring Training early to work on his fielding with Tanner Swanson, the Yanks’ new catching coach.
Kudos to Sanchez for putting in the extra work, which thus far has paid off for him.
He has hit three monster home runs in spring training. Two of the three blasts have been against the Detroit Tigers, with the second one hitting halfway up a very tall light pole in left field at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
At this early point in spring training, Sanchez has five hits in 13 at-bats for a solid .385 batting average. Also, he has made no errors behind the plate, and he has purged two baserunners with his right cannon arm in 29 innings. Go, Gary!
Aaron Judge and his teammates have noted Sanchez’s improved all-around play. In fact, Judge is predicting that the Yankees’ backstop will have a special year. Judge thinks that Sanchez can go out there and win the AL MVP Award if he plays well.
Can Yankees C Gary Sanchez continue his hot streak into the regular season?
As we all know, when Sanchez is on both offensively and defensively, he makes the Bronx Savages almost impossible to beat. Yet, when the Kraken is struggling, it is oy vey for the Bombers.
According to a major newspaper, baseball scouts who have seen him play in spring training are still not convinced that the Yankees’ catcher will be able to match his 2019 performance when he launched a career-high 34 homers.
One scout believes the power is still there. However, this person also feels that Sanchez is still having a mixture of good and bad (striking out) at-bats, and is still inconsistent at the plate this spring. This scout also found that he relies on his powerful arm too much to compensate for his struggles behind the plate with runners on base.
Beginning last year, Swanson had Sanchez catch in a lower stance to make it easier for him to snag pitches in the lower portion of the strike zone. This move also was intended to improve the backstop’s framing of pitches.
Whether Sanchez will finally be able to adapt to a crouch with his knee on the ground is anyone’s guess. Veterans David Cone, Alex Rodriguez, and others have noted how uncomfortable Sanchez looks in the new position behind the plate and have questioned Swanson’s approach. Seeing him in the new crouch is so painful to watch that one wants to switch their own position in their chair while viewing the game.
Whether Sanchez’s performance in spring training will carry over to the 2021 season is anyone’s guess. I really need more data points to become even slightly optimistic about his chances of playing to his full potential this coming season. Honestly, his impressive hitting this spring has primarily come at the expense of hurlers of significantly varied quality.
While it is fun to fantasize about how much a Sanchez metamorphosis could help the Yanks, the reality is that the beast behind the plate is simply a complicated and unpredictable guy, and anything can happen.