Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Catchers

As I sit here on Wednesday morning, I’m sipping my second cup of coffee and thinking back on what an entertaining World Series we just watched between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. Game Three’s 18 inning marathon won by LA and Saturday night’s back and forth see-saw game in Game Four, eventually won by Boston have made this series a classic — the many antics by Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado not withstanding.

While the city of Boston watched the Red Sox victory parade today, the rest of Major League Baseball teams are sorting out what went wrong in 2018 and planning ahead for 2019. The New York Yankees and their front office are doing the same thing.

In the third installment of “Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em”, we will take a look at the team’s catchers. Let’s get started!

Gary Sanchez – (.186, 18 HR, 53 RBI) Good Lord. Sanchez went from runner up for AL Rookie of the Year (in less than half a season, no less), to All Star in 2017 to the outhouse in 2018. If you are looking for a positive, the Kraken walked six more times than he did in 2017 despite 150 less plate appearances. I guess that’s a good thing, considering his average dropped 90 points to an anemic .186 on the season. Gary just never seemed to get into a groove as he did in 2016 and ’17. His defense behind the plate went from bad in 2017 to worse in ’18. He allowed two more passed balls (league leading 18) than he did in 2017, despite playing in 28 less games. Sanchez threw out 30% of base stealers, down from 38% and 41% from 2017 and ’16, respectively. He got crossed up with his pitcher more times than I could count because he couldn’t remember what pitch he called and basically seemed disinterested back there. Sanchez missed a bunch of time on two different occasions with right groin strains, which may have played a small role in his regression.

This game-ending play from July stands out. Yankees were down a run in Tampa, and Gary loafed down the line and was easily thrown out. Although he ended up on the disabled list the next day, he admitted he needed to run harder.

I think a change of scenery would be good for both Sanchez and the Yankees both. I think he needs some kind of wake-up call. The Miami Marlins are always looking to shed payroll. With New York possibly thinking of offering the aforementioned Manny Machado a contract, it’s not optimal to have two players known for loafing in the same lineup. Perhaps Yankees GM Brian Cashman could whip together a package to land fellow catcher JT Realmuto, who wants to be traded? Sanchez has more team control at a lower price, which would suit Marlins owner Derek Jeter.

Trash him (Meaning trade him).

Austin Romine – (.244, 10 HR, 42 RBI) Romine played quite a bit in 2018, with starter Gary Sanchez sidelined two separate times with a strained groin. He did what he always does, bringing his lunch-pail and goes to work. In 265 total plate appearances (close to half a season’s worth for a full-time starter), Romine knocked ten balls over the fence and drove in 42 runs. He had four games of three hits and several other games here he had two hits. As the season wore on (hey, catchers get banged-up), his average started dropping through August and September. Romine earns his money off the field and on, being a very good defensive catcher and mentoring Gary Sanchez and most importantly, working with and having the respect of the pitching staff. Dollar for dollar, the Yankees are getting their money’s worth.

Take him.

Kyle Higashioka – (.167, 3 HR, 6 RBI) Drafted by the Yankees way back in 2008, the 28 year old Higashioka was recalled by New York on both occasions when Sanchez was injured. He got his first major league hit on July 1 at Yankee Stadium, when he hammered a no-doubter down the left-field line into the second deck off Red Sox starter David Price in the bottom of the 4th inning.

That was probably his most memorable moment of 2018, as he ended the season with more strikeouts (16) than hits (12). Historically, the “Higster” has never been a good hitter (.202 average at Triple-A Scranton in 2018), and is minor league filler. I wish for him to do well, but spots on the “40 man” are valuable and I think the Yankees are better suited to move on with younger talent.

Trash him.

In our next installment of Yankees “Take ’em or Trash ’em”, we will whip it around the horn, covering the infielders. See you then! 👋🏼

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Stop Worrying, Gary Will Be Fine…..

 

Gary Sanchez returned to the Yankees lineup last night in their 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Manager Aaron Boone gave the 25 year old catcher had a three day break designed to rest his nicked-up body and maybe to reset his mind a bit. Sanchez is batting .188 this season and is mired in a 2-31 slump since June began. In his All-Star season in 2017, Gary slugged 33 home runs, most of them every bit as majestic as teammate Aaron Judge’s blasts. However, Sanchez has not homered in almost a month. His last ones came in a May 19 game against Kansas City, in which he had four hits and a pair of homers in an 8-3 Yankees win.

We’re about a month away from the All Star Break, but it’s still too early to panic and think Gary is past “the point of no return”. Yes his slash-line is ugly (.188/.295/.426), but it’s also a time to point out that Sanchez got red-hot in the second halves of the past two seasons, especially in the months of August. In 2016, he burst on the scene with an eleven homer month that everyone in the baseball world noticed.

 

 

It didn’t take long for Yankees Twitter to “Release the Kraken”, with his eye-popping .389/.458/.832 slash-line for August 2016. Last season, Sanchez had another hot August with a dozen homers to go with a .287 average. He followed that up with a .303 September average.

It’s no secret Sanchez has struggled with some facets of his defense behind the plate, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t add to it. That said, I want to voice praise over many things Gary does well. He is one of the best at framing pitches in Major League Baseball. Good framing can get his pitchers more called strikes, even if they are borderline. We all know Gary has a bazooka and throws out a ton of would-be base-stealers. Fans and broadcast crews lamented the amount of mound visits he took in 2017, which helped MLB implement a new rule limiting mound-visits as part of Commissioner Manfred’s plan to improve pace-of-play. In my opinion, all those mound visits tells me Sanchez cares deeply about making sure he and his pitchers stay on the same page.

Does Gary have more work to do to become a well-rounded catcher? Absolutely. But we also have to remember he’s still only 25 years of age, and he still hasn’t reached his prime. The weather will continue to heat up, and I will bet on Gary Sanchez heating up along with it.