My Goals for Gary Sanchez for the 2020 Season
As the 2020 season inches closer and closer, Gary Sanchez will be another important player for the Yankees. The two-time All-Star catcher will be entering his sixth season in the league and will be evaluated very closely this year by fans and the coaching staff. After battling injuries and many defensive struggles over the past couple of seasons, Sanchez will look to have a rebound season in which he will attempt to stay off the injured list, increase his offensive productivity, and continue to improve upon his defense behind the plate.
Last off-season the Yankees floated around in rumors that involved acquiring former Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto. In what was presumed to be a straight swap of Realmuto for Sanchez, Brian Cashman put the rumors to rest, saying that the Yankees were not going to give up a talent like Sanchez. Realmuto is by far a top three catcher in baseball today, and this trade would have been a beneficial trade for both teams. The Marlins would have gotten a young catcher who has a cannon of an arm and a powerful swing, whereas Realmuto also has some pop in his bat, has a good batting average, and can play excellent defense.
However, Cashman did the smart thing by keeping Sanchez. The Yankees saw that Sanchez can be a dynamic player when he hit .278 with 33 home runs and 90 RBIs during the 2017 season. He had the strongest arm out of all catchers and had the third best pop-time to second base. Many could argue that he was the best catcher in baseball during that season, even though he did struggle behind the plate. Everything seemed to fall apart during the 2018 season when Sanchez was plagued with groin injuries and was completely unreliable behind the plate. I believe that many of these defensive struggles were tied to his injuries, and I am sure Sanchez would say the same.
The 2019 season was a step in the right direction for Sanchez. Even though he led all catchers in the majors with 15 errors, Sanchez hit 34 home runs and drove in 77 runs for the Bombers in just 106 games. Sanchez’s biggest issue was passed balls, which he decreased from 18 in 2018 to only 7 in 2019. He was behind the plate for 14 more games in 2019 than in 2018 yet allowed 11 less passed balls. Many of the errors that were committed were balls that went into center field on steal attempts. Nonetheless, Sanchez is setting himself up for a big 2020 season.
In my mind, there are two goals that I would have for Gary Sanchez’s season. First, he must remain healthy. If the Yankees decide to let Austin Romine join another team this off-season, they will be turning to Kyle Higashioka as the primary backup catcher. Higashioka has been a valuable piece for the Yankees, but the major question is if he can be an everyday catcher at the major league level in case Sanchez goes down with an injury. If Sanchez can aim to catch 120-125 games this upcoming season, the Yanks will be very pleased.
Second, Gary Snachez must prove that he is a solid defender. There is no doubt that Sanchez had a much better season behind the plate during the 2019 season as opposed to the 2018 season. However, the big question is if he can continue to show growth behind the plate. If Sanchez can keep his passed ball count low and lower his error count by five or more, it will be a much-improved season.
If Sanchez can accomplish these two goals during the 2020 season, he will more than likely find himself as a top five catcher in baseball, if he is not already.