During the 2017 season, Gary Sanchez took a lot of criticism for his defensive play. The young backstop allowed 16 passed balls, which was the most by any Major League catcher. He also gave up 53 wild pitches, which was the second most in the league.
This offseason, the 25-year-old set his focus on improving defensively.
As pitchers and catchers reported to spring training yesterday, Sanchez spoke to reporters for the first time this season. In an interview with Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, he reiterated how he is focused on improving behind the plate.
“This past offseason I worked really hard on defense because I want to be better than last year. I want to fix all the little issues that I had last year, defensively. I want to keep improving. That’s the bottom line; keep improving.”
Last August, former manager Joe Girardi voiced his opinion about how his All-Star catcher was struggling to block the baseball. After Girardi’s comments, the Yankees decided to give Sanchez three days off defensively, which seemed to help get him back on track.
For the remainder of the season, Sanchez only allowed four more passed balls, and threw out 45 percent of possible base stealers. When asked about the comments from Girardi, Sanchez understands that his former skipper was trying to help him get better.
“Looking back at all the things that Girardi said, I feel that all the stuff that he said, it was to help me be better. At the end of the year, I thought he helped me get better. In this experience, you learn. There is stuff that you go through. You have to learn from that stuff and keep getting better. But you also have to move on. You’ve got to live and learn, especially from last year, and that’s the focus.”
According to Hoch, Sanchez seemed to appear a bit slimmer as he arrived at the Yankees’ spring training complex on Tuesday. However, the 25-year-old said that he weighs the same as last year, which is approximately 230 pounds.
Heading into his second full Big League season, it will be interesting to see if Sanchez’s offseason work will help him improve defensively. We all know what he is capable of doing offensively, but it would be a huge benefit for the Yankees if he can rectify his struggles behind the dish.