Gary Sanchez, A 2021 All-Star Catcher?
Yesterday I made the case as to which players from the 2021 New York Yankees are likely to represent the team during the midsummer classic this year. Today, I examine the case for an outside-of-the-box potential selection to also make the team: Gary Sanchez.
Let's #SquadUp for the midsummer classic 🤩 Vote 5x a day here: https://t.co/o5UEgmozA9 pic.twitter.com/J3WW7KZVzG — New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 3, 2021
Gary Sanchez a 2021 All-Star?
I know it sounds absolutely nuts for anybody- and especially nuts for me- to try and make this case. I’ve been a long time anti-Gary Sanchez blogger and would’ve much rather the Yankees sent him away in a trade deal during any of the past few offseasons than continued to see him play in pinstripes. Heck, I was calling for the Yankees to make the same 4/$40M contract that the Mets gave to James McCann this past offseason (though to be fair, they both have the same bWAR currently).
And speaking of bWAR, you want to know what’s incredibly upsetting about Gary Sanchez? He’s 2nd on the Yankees catching list in terms of bWAR. Kyle Higashioka has +0.7 bWAR (+0.8 fWAR) through the season so far! Gary Sanchez currently sits at +0.4 (+0.6 fWAR).
However, I think there is a case to be made where a solid month of Gary Sanchez could net him a slot on the 2021 AL All-Star team roster. And I’ll explain this in two parts.
Got curious about Sanchez' wRC+ by month over the course of his career. Looks like El Gary is, was, and will be an elite catcher. pic.twitter.com/WUcGVa2pN6 — Don Lon (@DonnamedLon) June 4, 2021
A Great June for a Great Reward:
Thanks to Don Lon (above), who recently put together this month-by-month chart of Gary Sanchez’s performance as a hitter. Through this we can generally see that when healthy, Gary Sanchez is an above average hitter. This is where most of the case for his potential All-Star Game inclusion is based off of. Because most ASG voting is related to offensive performance (or else Andrelton Simmons would’ve been an All-Star by now), we’re going to discredit his defense. To be fair, while Sanchez’s defense is currently rated as -0.1 dWAR by BaseballReference he also has a 2.0 DEF by Fangraphs, so depending on who you ask it’s rating as playable to decent this year. Though, we’re getting off track. Let’s talk about offense:
During the month of May, Gary Sanchez hit to a 120 wRC+ (117 sOPS+) of which brought his season average from an 87 wRC+ (86 sOPS+) to a 106 wRC+ (106 OPS+). What this indicates is that Gary Sanchez started off slow, but has been above-average as a catcher over the past month, leading to overall above-average offensive play. So, it wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility that he hits to that same level again through June. And while wRC+/OPS+ are relative to the rest of the league (therefore impossible to predict), we can look better at his numbers over the past month to see what improved.
In May (vs. March/April) Gary Sanchez slightly improved both his AVG from .190 to .213 and his OPB from a .329 to .333. And while any improvement is good, the major number he saw go up was SLG (and OPS), from .310 to .443 and .639 to .776. This was largely due to Sanchez hitting 2 HR’s in March/April and 4 in May all while having a similar amount of PA’s (70 to 72). And the thing is that we know Gary Sanchez can hit to a SLG above .500 (which he did in 2017 and 2019). Without a HR yet in June, we also know that Gary Sanchez can go on good tears. Let’s say over the rest of the month of June Sanchez is able to put up 8 HR’s (2 in each week). It’s definitely a reach, but that would give him 14 HR’s on the year while likely pumping his SLG to being near .500 again on the year.
So, let’s say that (with that “simple fix”) at the end of June, Gary Sanchez’s profile went from:
.210/.331/.384 (.715 OPS) with 6 HR’s
.220/.340/.475 (.815 OPS) with 14 HR’s
Could that be enough?
The 2021 AL Catcher Field:
Right now, the American League has very very little talent across the board. And this is half the battle for Gary Sanchez to try and find his way onto the team. If the other players around him aren’t doing well, then a good performance on the season would make him better than the rest.
At the current moment, Gary Sanchez is hitting to a triple-slash of .210/.331/.384 (.715 OPS), which across the board has his AVG ranking 8th amongst AL Catchers, his OBP is 3rd, his SLG is 8th, and his OPS is 7th. While these are middle-of-the-pack numbers, the important thing to consider is that with a plausible month like we indicated above, Gary Sanchez could greatly improve these rankings.
Let’s say Gary Sanchez hit to that .220/.340/.475 (.815 OPS) triple-slash. If he was to have those numbers now it would rank 8th in AVG (no change), 2nd in OPB (+1 spot), 4th in SLG (+4 spots), and 3rd in OPS (+4 spots). Now, obviously this would mean no other catcher makes a big move, but here we can see his biggest competitors: Salvador Perez, Mike Zunino, and Mitch Garver. These are their current 2021 stats:
Perez (KCR): .279/.308/.513 (.821 OPS) with a .320 BABIP
Zunino (TBR): .197/.285/.525. (809 OPS) with a .214 BABIP
Garver (MIN): .224/.333/.500 (.833 OPS) with a .286 BABIP
This indicates that it’s likely Zunino improves, Garver will likely keep up similar numbers, and Perez is due for some regression. So, it could be expected that our hypothetical .815 OPS could find its way to being comfortably amongst the mix with these three top AL catchers by offense. (Again, we’re discrediting defense in this thought experiment.) So, it would seem there’s a path for Sanchez.
No, I don’t expect Gary Sanchez to hit 8 HR’s over the month of June. I’ve watched him play far too much to believe in that happening. Though, it is possible and I would obviously welcome any positive change to the Yankees offense. I want Gary to play incredibly well this month to earn an All-Star bid, which brings me to a final consideration: fan’s don’t pick the back-ups.
In the All-Star Game fan voting, fans get to only select who the starting players are. The rest is decided by a collection of MLB personnel who have to make sure that every team is represented, good players are honored, and the roster is logical (i.e. they are not likely to select more than 3 catchers per league). With that, media and personalities are often drawn to big stories. If Gary Sanchez has an incredible month of June, that could very well help his case to be selected as the back-up.
However, this thought experiment was my attempt to show the weakness of a position and to play with some statistics given historical trends from a player to see if I could envision a future where they go from average at his position to becoming a top talent again in a short time period. So, to conclude:
Do I believe this will happen? No.
Do I want this to happen? Of course.
Will it? Probably not, but it’d be awesome if it did.