It’s nearly impossible to predict the kind of season an individual player will have. Health, variance in competition, and just general uncertainty in the world of sport are some reasons for this. Despite these roadblocks, I decided to take a stab at projecting 2020 for the Sanchino, the biggest lightening rod on the Yankees.
Despite incessant criticism from misinformed fans, 2019 was a great year for Sanchez. He slashed .232/.316/.535. His 34 homers were the most by any catcher in baseball. He was selected as the starting catcher in the All-Star game for the American League. His defense also improved considerably, as he allowed just seven passed balls all season.
As is usually the case, Gary’s elite power came with constant nagging injuries. He strained his calf in April. A groin strain followed in late July, and then again in September. He was able to return for the playoffs, but did not look like himself at all. Sanchez played in just 106 games in total. He did homer once every three games, which is incredible.
I am going to project Gary at 124 games played for 2020. This would be an 18 game improvement from last season. As much as I would love to see him play 140, it’s tough not to think the inevitable groin strain is coming. I am projecting Gary to miss three weeks of action at some point over the summer. This will cause him to miss 18-20 games, plus the regular scheduled rest that catchers already need when healthy. I would be thrilled with 124 games played this year.
This is easy. Gary homers once every three games. 124 divided by three is 43.3. Let’s call it 40 bombs even. This would be significant as no American League catcher has ever hit 40 homers in a season.
On Base Percentage
This is an area where he needs to improve. He’s never going to be a .400 OBP guy, but .316 in 2019 was simply not good enough. The interesting thing is that Gary had a .375 OBP in 2016 and .345 in 2017, but has really fallen off in that area since then. Laying off sliders in the dirt will not only help raise his OBP, but it will give him more opportunities to crush fastballs over the fence as well. I am projecting a .328 OBP this year. There will be a slight improvement, but this is an area that may take several years to see significant progress. Plate discipline often comes with age.
Gary had 90 RBI’s in 2017 and 77 last year. I’m going to go with 88 this year, just shy of this career high. Yes, this means he will hit a fair amount of solo homers.
Gary had some throwing errors early in the season in 2019, but other than that his defense was actually okay. He cut down on his passed balls, going from 18 in 2018 to just seven in 2019. Despite cutting down on those, he struggled throwing out base runners. He threw out 38% of runners attempting to steal in 2017, 30% in 2018, and 23% in 2019. This is fairly alarming. It’s also very peculiar because he still has the highest recorded pop time in the American League among catchers. Are runners just getting better jumps? Another area where Gary regressed in 2019 was framing. (The Yankees analytics department values framing much higher than passed balls/blocking.) There are a ton of metrics at play here, but overall I project Gary to be slightly above average at defense among catchers.
Gary Sanchez is very good at baseball. He is a consensus top three catcher in the majors. If he can stay relatively healthy, he will continue to put up All-Star numbers.