Friday, December 18, 2015
EITHER WAY, SANCHEZ MUST PLAY!
The Yankees signed Gary Sanchez as a 16 year-old kid for $3 million seven years ago thinking he had the raw tools to one day become the Yankees starting catcher. After several disappointing seasons in the lower levels on the minor leagues, 2015 was a breakout-type year for Sanchez. He is on the cusp of being a legitimate big league catcher but with Brian McCann still signed for several more years, how does he fit in? All I know is after the year he had, Sanchez must continue to play... Very regularly!
After starting the year in Double-A Trenton, Sanchez got the call up to Triple-A Scranton this summer and performed very well in his first opportunity in Triple-A ball. He slashed .295/.349/.500 in Scranton adding six home runs and 26 RBI over just 32 games. He totaled 18 home runs and 62 RBI over 93 games this season combined. He solid year continued into the fall as he starred in the Arizona Fall League adding seven more home runs, 21 more RBI and threw out a league leading 61% of base stealers! That is what the Yankees were anticipating from the young man when they signed him.
It is speculated that he has the lead for the backup catcher's job in the Bronx next summer and he is most likely the most talented catcher, next to McCann, in the Yankees organization. The problem I have is that the up and coming star needs to play and play often and the Yankees are paying McCann way too much money to be a platoon guy. So as much as I believe Sanchez could be a solid part of the Yankees team, is utilizing him as the backup catcher the right thing to do? I'm not sure it is.
Scouts and people in the organization have said he has made a lot of strides in his work ethic and his defensive abilities. His bat has always been there and he has a very good arm, as proven by his 61% caught stealing percentage in the AFL! He accumulated 365 at-bats during the summer, not including the Fall League, and he needs to continue to be in the lineup every day in order to continue his development.
In 2015 John Ryan Murphy accumulated only 155 at-bats while serving as McCann's backup. I can't see Sanchez getting only 155 at-bats. That would ruin the momentum he built all of 2015. Even if he were to start an extra 10 games or so, he would still likely only get 200 plate appearances for the big club next season, barring a McCann injury.
Could he be used in other roles though? He could, but many managers don't really like using their backup catcher as pinch hitter, other than for the starting catcher. The Yankees also have a log jam of potential DH's including ARod, Tex, Beltran and any other of the old timers on the roster. McCann could DH occasionally and get a half day off but that leaves the team at the risk of having both catchers in the lineup and if one got hurt, there then is no back up. Plus they would lose the DH. Not ideal, but it could be worked around occasionally.
If Sanchez is not going to get on the plus side of 250 at-bats, at a minimum, I'd much rather see him develop in Scranton for another year. Plus he doesn't have the makeup of a backup. A typical backup catcher is normally very solid defensively without much to offer on the offensive side. You want your backup to be able to come in late in a game and not worry about defensive liabilities. That's their primary job. Sanchez is the opposite as he is still perfecting the receiving and game calling, but has a great arm and a powerful bat. His makeup is best suited as an everyday back stop. A mistake or two defensively can be overcome with what he offers offensively.
I can't wait for Sanchez to be in the Bronx and it doesn't appear to be far away, but only if he is going to play and play regularly. It would be a waste to bring him up to start six or seven games a month. The Cubs didn't bring Kris Bryant up to be their backup third baseman, that wouldn't have made any sense! Even if he starts the season in the minors then gets a call up over the summer for the stretch run, I'd be better with that.
I want to see Sanchez build off this year by getting regular at-bats and become a better overall player by his time next year than he is now. He is the most talented backup catcher option the Yankees have, but that doesn't mean it's the right decision. He is the leading candidate for the catcher of the future as long as he keeps developing and that only comes with playing time.
Whenever he ends up on April first is fine by me. As long as he plays!
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