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Why I’m not giving up on Gary Sanchez

The start of the 2020 season has been challenging for the Yankees slugging catcher. So far, Gary Sanchez is hitting .125/.222/357 and his .1 fWAR puts him near the bottom for catchers this season. During some of his at-bats he has looked lost and he still misses too many balls when he’s behind the plate. However, I am fully expecting Gary to bounce back offensively and it is not time to give up on the Kraken.

Catchers are struggling across baseball

So far Gary isn’t the only catcher struggling. This offseason, the White Sox gave out their biggest contract in team history to Yasmani Grandal. He has hit 1 home run and has a fWAR of 0. Last season Mitch Garver broke out for Minnesota and swatted 31 home runs; this year he has 1 and he’s been demoted to a platoon.  J.T. Realmuto leads all catchers with a .8 fWAR but as a whole the position is struggling.

The Yankees also do not have any in-house options to replace Sanchez. Kyle Higashioka is on the IL and the 40-year old Erik Kratz is more of a coach than a viable option.

While there are some legitimate concerns in Gary’s game, high chase rate that had led to a ton of strikeouts, he has been the victim of some bad luck. His batting average on balls in play is a shockingly low .12o despite over 48% of his batted balls having an exit velocity over 95 mph. Simply put, these numbers are not sustainable. If Gary keeps hitting the ball that hard expect his average to climb.

The one area that Sanchez remains a consistent threat is with the long ball. His 4 home runs have him in second amongst catchers. With Judge and Stanton both on the IL, the Yankees can’t afford to lose his power.

Improvements behind the plate

Sanchez will never win a gold glove in his career. He will always be a bat first catcher and will have trouble with passed balls and wild pitches. But, it is important to note that he has worked hard on trying to improve his play behind the plate. This offseason he dropped to one knee behind the plate to help him defensively. While passed balls/wild pitches continue to be an issue he has been praised for his framing ability.

Perhaps more importantly, he seems to have great chemistry with the newly acquired Gerrit Cole.

After every start this year Cole has been quick to credit Sanchez’s performance. If having Sanchez behind the plate helps Cole dominate in the Bronx then I want Gary behind the plate.