The main question on Yankee fans’ minds (outside of DJ LeMahieu and Francisco Lindor) is what to do with Gary Sanchez? So we will dive into what the New York Yankees can do with Gary Sanchez.
What’s the Problem?
In order to understand what to do with Gary Sanchez, we must first understand what’s wrong with Gary Sanchez. Understanding what’s going wrong with Sanchez isn’t an easy diagnosis. His defense has never been particularly good, but his bat used to be excellent. So what happened in 2018-2020? Gary Sanchez reminds me a lot of Manny Ramirez, in some good and bad ways. Both Sanchez and Ramirez possessed dynamite bats, capable of destroying the baseball when going well. However, both players’ defensive ability is lacking, to say the least. And both players struggled with mental lapses far too frequently for any fan’s liking.
It is an intriguing question, “what’s the problem with Gary Sanchez?” Because there is not a simple answer. Gary Sanchez has the ability to carry a team and dominate a lineup. Sanchez proved this fact in 2016 and 2017. However, since then, Gary hasn’t been the same player. So redirecting the course to get Gary back to dominance is multilayered.
The Defensive Problem
First, let’s focus on the defense, as I feel that’s where Gary’s most significant issues and ailments are as a player. Sanchez improved in 2020 in one aspect defensively. The only area of legitimate focus from the new catching coach, Tanner Swanson, framing low pitches. The new stance that was employed by Gary Sanchez this season was successful in getting more called low strikes. However, the most significant controversy and issue with Gary’s defense were only exacerbated by this stance. The one knee ￼on the ground stance severely limited Gary’s mobility. Thus Gary continued to have passed balls. Having Gary revert back to a more normal catching stance “should” free Gary’s mind up to get back the thing that makes him special, his bat.
The Offensive Problem
The Yankees would be more than happy to deal with Sanchez’s lapses behind the plate. But only if they had the 40 home run hitting catcher that was projected. I genuinely believe that much like Manny Ramirez, Gary Sanchez’s biggest problem is between his ears. Gary is an intelligent young man with a grasp of the game. However, when Gary starts to overthink he plays himself out of the lineup. (As evidenced by the 2020 ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays.) But Gary has shown the capability of delivering a potent bat when he doesn’t have to focus on too much analytically. If the Designated Hitter position weren’t already occupied (by Giancarlo Stanton, another case study for another time), Sanchez would be better suited to just hit. But that’s not an option, so we must find another solution.
How to Correct the Problems?
When it comes to the defensive aspect of Gary Sanchez’s game there isn’t an easy fix. Gary needs to become more flexible behind the plate in order to correct his most significant defensive ailment, blocking balls/passed balls. The change in stance made by Tanner Swanson, shown a real improvement in that singular ability by Sanchez. But the rest of his catching skills remain at the same stagnant level.
The improvement by Sanchez in one area of focus by Swanson shows an ability to change. Thus providing Gary with a worthwhile teacher can improve his skills even more. Bringing in a legendary catcher like Yadier Molina on a one or two-year deal can aid Gary Sanchez.
Bringing in Yadier Molina?
While it may seem counter-intuitive to bring in another catcher as a way to correct Gary Sanchez, it’s the kind of reverse psychological thing that can help. Sanchez’s biggest issue is his defense causes mental lapses that carry over to his offense. Working with a legend behind the dish like Yadi will allow Gary to see how the man prepares. Yadier Molina’s preparation is second to none. And Yadi is unquestionably a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Having Gary that close to Yadi on a day-to-day basis will force Gary’s improvement.
Without Defensive Issue, Gary’s Offense can Flourishes
From the beginning of Sanchez’s Yankee career, he has lived an up and down life. His baseball career has been subjected to much scrutiny and speculation. Much of the time the scrutiny has been self-inflicted, because of mental lapses. When Gary has a few passed balls, he tried to mash a 5-run home run to make up for it. A fest that is clearly impossible to achieve. However, if Gary works with a catcher like Yadi who can improve his entire defensive game, he can relax at the plate. And a relaxed Gary Sanchez in the box; does damage.
How to Fix Gary Sanchez?
The Yankees have already made it clear that they aren’t giving up on Sanchez by tendering him a contract. And he is still likely to receive a raise despite an abysmal season in 2020. So what should the Yankees do? Bring in Yadi Molina as the “primary” catcher, thus freeing Gary to learn from the best. And with the pressure removed Gary can learn and earn back the majority of the playing time. Sanchez still has the potential to be an offensive force in Major League Baseball. All that has to happen now is to find the path that unlocks his mind, and that direction could be a partnership with Yadier Molina.