I’ve found Yankees fans are split into two camps regarding Gary Sanchez: Those who are Sanchez apologists and those who scream for him to DH every time he allows a passed ball. I’m here to tell you that neither are correct in their viewpoint.
Yes. Every single mistake the guy makes gets highlighted. He is THE best catcher in the AL and is 24. Period. Stud. And improving. https://t.co/MJQHJ2I4Kz
Ruocco talked about Gary receiving unfair criticism for his lack of blocking ability this week. Keep in mind this was before Gary allowed two more passed balls in the Cleveland series, both directly leading to runs. Sanchez leads the league in passed balls with 13. That is the most passed balls by a Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada, except Posada caught over 400 more innings than Gary has caught so far.
Ruocco’s larger point is correct — Gary Sanchez is an impactful player. His 3.3 WAR ranks second behind Buster Posey for the league lead at catcher. He leads Salvador Perez in both HR (28) and RBI (77), and he’s done all of that while missing the month of April with a bicep injury. His throwing is also elite; Gary has gunned-down 35% of base stealers (league average is 26%) and he ranks 10th in baseball for catcher framing runs, a stat by Baseball Prospectus.
His blocking is a major issue though. The gif above shows him completely whiffing on a Jaime Garcia pitch in the first inning on Wednesday afternoon. Not only did Sanchez’ inability to catch the ball take away a possible strike, it allowed a runner to score from third base. Not all of his passed balls this season are as egregious as that one. For example, Adam Warren spiked a fastball during Monday’s game that Sanchez was charged with a passed ball on. While the pitch could have been smothered, it was at least excusable. But many of his mistakes this year, like the one above, are not.
The good news is blocking can be worked on. You can’t teach arm strength, and Gary has that. Framing ability is more of a feel thing, which should only continue to improve as he plays longer. He just needs to concentrate this offseason on anticipating where pitches will be thrown, how they will spin, and dropping to the floor like he’s friggin’ Pitbull. I’m not ready to give up on Sanchez being the long-term backstop, and I don’t think the Yankees are either.