Make-or-break year for wildly inconsistent backstop
In the category of enigmatic players, we present for your consideration Gary Sanchez.
Indeed, in their sixth-year catcher, the New York Yankees have someone whose production hasn’t always matched his talent. And from year to year, they never know what player they’re getting.
Is he “The Cracken,” who burst onto the scene in 2016 with 20 home runs and a 1.032 OPS in 53 games and followed that up year later with a 33 homer, .876 OPS campaign? Or is he the flailing hitter who struggled through 2020 with a woeful .147 batting average and wound up being benched in favor of journeyman Kyle Higashioka in the playoffs?
For his part, Sanchez knows 2021 is make or break for him and improvements need to be made. Toward that end, he worked with Bomber hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere on keeping his weight back, letting the pitch travel more and putting a compact swing on the ball. He also took extra at-bats playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
As for his defense, which was never a strength, Sanchez will go back to a one-knee stance, with which he has grown more comfortable after introducing it in 2020.
Whether his offseason work will pay dividends is still too early to tell. Though the season’s first four games, Sanchez had two bombs but he also displayed some of the same maddening tendencies that got him in the Yankees’ doghouse in the first place. Whether he can head that off and unleash his monstrous power over the course of a 162-game season remains to be demonstrated.
Sanchez and the Yankees can be seen in action at home against the Houston Astros in a game airing Tuesday, May 4, on ESPN.
Name: Gary Sanchez
Birth date: Dec. 2, 1992
Birthplace: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Height/weight: 6 feet 2 inches/230 pounds
Teams: New York Yankees (2015-present)
Honors and achievements: AL All-Star (2017, 2019), Silver Slugger Award (2017); finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting (2016)