Sánchez was no longer the consistent game-breaker he’d been in 2016-17, either because too many coaches got into his head, or because the league figured out his bat enough to limit his offensive usefulness to the point his defense would no longer fly.
Regardless, he still has all-world power, and a chance to split catching duties/DH reps in the AL Central seemed like an excellent opportunity to rebuild value.
Unfortunately, within one month, Sánchez’s fate as a long-term DH seems more assured than ever thanks to a breakout of the power-first, defense-focused catcher ahead of him on the depth chart: Ryan Jeffers.
With Miguel Sano now headed for surgery, Sánchez will get plenty of DH reps if he can stay healthy. And now, the focus (and scorn) turns to his bat once again.
Suddenly, competing with Kyle Higashioka for playing time and acquiescing to Gerrit Cole atop the rotation doesn’t sound so bad.
Twins’ Ryan Jeffers may have stolen long-term catcher role away from ex-Yankees C Gary Sánchez in Minnesota.
And, of course, this is a contract year for Sánchez, who will be thinking about his next destination all season long as he watches Jeffers show off the total package behind the plate.
With the Yankees, all he had to do to stay behind the plate was out-slug the inept (sorry!) Higashioka by enough to justify his defensive deficiencies. There might’ve been more to the story, but the Yankees decided this offseason was the fracture point, and granted Sánchez a well-earned fresh start/respite from a certain segment of the fan base.
Instead, Sánchez has ended up in a far more unfavorable situation, minus the whole “Minnesota nice” thing. The 24-year-old Jeffers is showing off on both sides of the ball, with a 125 OPS+ and 0.7 WAR already accrued, most of it in his recent red-hot week.
Sánchez? He’s 3-for-16 with two doubles since returning from injury purgatory, holds an 86 OPS+, and has DH’d six times and caught eight times, a ratio that seems poised to shift as Jeffers continues replicating the departed Mitch Garver’s production.
Truth be told, the Yankees’ side of the catching experiment isn’t coming close to working offensively, though the defensive/framing benefits must be endless, considering how well the pitching staff has performed en route to an 18-6 spurt with zero slugging whatsoever coming from behind the plate.
Perhaps catchers should be seen and not heard in the modern MLB — unless they’re two-way studs like Jeffers. Brutal break.