Gary Sanchez has been to The Show before. Twice to be precise. This time is different, however. This time Sanchez isn’t going back to the minors, at least he shouldn’t. This time, the arrival of Sanchez marks the beginning of a new era of Yankees baseball.
Since 2013, the Yankees have quietly begun to retool their farm. That draft proved to be a big one as they selected Aaron Judge in the first round, and he has clearly become the most anticipated prospect in the Yankees system since Jesus Montero. They also snagged Eric Jagielo in that same first round. Jagielo, of course, was the centerpiece in the Aroldis Chapman deal, that just a few months later would land them Gleyber Torres and Billy McKinney.
Ian Clarkin. Dustin Fowler. Tyler Wade. James Kaprielian. Chance Adams. Some of the biggest names on the Yankees farm came after that 2013 MLB Draft, including the recent hauls of Torres, McKinney, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Dillon Tate. Sanchez has been there through it all, and he is primed and ready to take the kids to the next level.
Being the next Yankees catcher is a daunting task. Just take a look at Monument Park, where the Yankees were so deep at catcher they had to retire the same number twice. Jorge Posada and the aforementioned Montero were the latest home-grown talents marked for greatness in the Yankees system. One found his number immortalized on the grounds of Yankees Stadium, while the other got a one-way ticket to the other coast.
Posada arrived in New York behind little fanfare. He was light-hitting, current skipper Joe Girardi’s faithful backup but would take the reins full time in 1998. While his ranking amongst elite catchers is always up for debate as a primarily offensive threat over his 17-year tenure, he is beloved forever in Yankees lore. Though a bit more grey these days, the Stadium still erupts with a “Hip, Hip Jorge!” the minute they know he is near.
Montero, on the other hand, arrived in New York a product of the infamous Yankees prospect hype machine. He became a consensus top-10 prospect in baseball between Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB. A brief 2011 18-game debut added fuel to Montero’s future legacy, as he hit .326 with four home runs in 61 at bats.
The next season, he was shipped to Seattle in a deal that was thought to highlight two of the best and brightest prospects in the game. Michael Pineda has had a career of injury and inconsistency for the Yankees. Montero has settled in as your clichéd Quad-A hitter, a perennial Triple-A All-Star that for one reason or the other, whether it be talent or his well documented off field issues, can’t hack it in the big leagues.
Where does Sanchez fit in? Does he have a chance to fulfill his destiny, one that was seemingly in place when he was signed in July of 2009 and one day see his number in the outfield hanging amongst the greats of Yankees past?
Sanchez has a bit behind him in his favor that suggests he will and can succeed. He has all the offensive talent in the world, showing the potential to be a 20-home-run kind of bat that can hit for a nice .270 to .280 average.
Though he is only 23, he is a seasoned veteran in his seventh season after starting at the age of 16. Unlike Montero, who saw questions of his maturity arise once in the big leagues, Sanchez already has shown that he has grown since his 2014 two-week team-imposed suspension for disciplinary actions, never showing a hint of the issues that got him in trouble just two years ago.
The biggest question mark behind Sanchez was his catching ability. He has worked tenfold to improve his receiving game, and he has done it without compromising his bat. Sanchez appears to be ready to be a power bat for the middle of the lineup, that doesn’t strikeout a lot, and his currently posting his best fielding percentage behind the plate while throwing out 40 percent of attempted base thieves.
There is another huge factor in Sanchez’s favor. Much like Posada, Sanchez is going to get a little help from his friends. Posada, of course, is part of the Core Four, the four Yankees prospects who, no matter what big money free agent The Boss brought in, were at the heart of the late 90s Yankees dynasty. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Posada are not just Yankees favorites, they are household names to anyone who watches America’s Pastime.
For more on the youth invasion about to take over the Bronx, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full feature by clicking on the link below: