One of the biggest spring training storylines for the Yankees in 2021 is the outlook for Gary Sanchez, once considered a bonafide All-Star who know appears to be entering a crucial year that could determine his future with the team.
Sanchez, who already has two home runs so far this spring, will be looking to prove himself this year, and Jack Curry of the YES Network believes Sanchez is set up for a bounceback season behind the plate after undergoing a massive reconstruction of his catching stance last season.
“Sanchez has talked about feeling more limber this year as if he’s more adjusted and more adapted to that,” Curry told Moose & Maggie on Thursday. “I can’t speak for him, but I can’t imagine that was easy for him last year. You’ve caught a certain way your whole life, and now suddenly you’re being asked to do it a different way. I think there’s an adjustment period for anyone. I think the Yankees are still believing that there is more for him to prove defensively, and in year two defensively, he should be more comfortable.”
The change in stance, which included one knee down and one leg extended outward, helped Sanchez improve in the passed ball department, which was a glaring deficiency in his defensive game from 2017 to 2019. If he can improve his framing numbers in the lower half of the zone and maintain his plus arm strength, Sanchez could turn his defense behind the plate into an asset for the Yankees.
“He went with this new catching technique where he’s got that leg spread out a-la Tony Pena like we used to see back in the day, and the defensive metrics did see improvement in a lot of what Sanchez was able to do,” Curry said. “He’s always had a terrific arm and that hasn’t he changed. He threw a runner out [Wednesday] night, so teams do not want to run against Sanchez, I don’t think he gets enough credit for that.”
Another major question for Sanchez this season includes ace Gerrit Cole, who wound up working exclusively with backup catcher Kyle Higashioka by the time the postseason began. Manager Aaron Boone said that both Sanchez and Higashioka will work with Cole during spring training, and Curry believes the Yanks will try to make it work with Sanchez and Cole, especially if Sanchez can rediscover the offensive production he showed in 2016, 2017 and 2019.
“I think the Yankees will find ways for Higashioka to catch Cole often, but I also think they want that partnership with Sanchez to grow,” Curry said. “What if Gary Sanchez does this year what the Yankees always thought he could do, and go back to what he’s been in 2016 and as recently as the first half of 2019? What if Sanchez goes 40 [home runs] and 100 [RBI]? Are you looking for a way to not play him in a playoff game? No. He’s got to play.”
The Yankees would be thrilled with that kind of offensive performance from Sanchez, hoping that he will return to the MVP-type player he was as a rookie and in 2017, when he clubbed 33 home runs despite missing a month due to injury.
“The Yankees want Gary Sanchez to succeed,” Curry said. “All of the criticism and all the scrutiny and white-hot lights that are on him, he can silence that by being the player they always thought he would be.”
Listen to Curry's full interview with Moose & Maggie below!