How the New York Yankees Cost Gary Sanchez His Shot at ROY 1
Sep 21, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) is congratulated by designator hitter Brian McCann (34) after he hit a home run during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After a sharp decline to end last season, New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez knows he has his work cut out for him in 2017.

Gary Sanchez put the ‘bomb’ in Bronx Bombers last season, blasting 20 home runs in 53 games for the New York Yankees. What gets lost in that narrative, however, is just how badly he struggled towards the end of the year.

In the month of August, Sanchez posted a .389/.458/.832 slash line with a 1.290 OPS, 11 home runs and 21 RBIs in 95 at-bats but slowed significantly in September (.222/.307/.525, .833 OPS, 9 HR and 21 RBIs in 99 at-bats).

Who is the real Gary Sanchez and which of those months was the aberration? He’s now entering his first full MLB season, Sanchez says he’s taken measures to avoid such spikes in his production.

“I’m not changing anything in particular but I am approaching this spring training with a lot of intensity and I’m not resting on my laurels after the month I had last season,” he told reporters at the 37th annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner on Tuesday. “I was only up for two months so there’s still a lot to learn.”

Sanchez, 24, is solely focused on improving. He wants to catch 130-140 games and says he’s worked hard to acclimate his body to the rigors of a 162-game schedule.

“I did a lot of strength work. That was something very important to me because it’s gonna be a long season, first time I catch, hopefully, over 100 games in the big league,” he said. “And receiving, my mitt work.”

Sanchez also said he’d be skipping this year’s World Baseball Classic, a decision he insists the Yankees had nothing to do with.

“No, I didn’t speak about to them about that,” he said. “I spoke to my family and the more I thought about it the more I felt I had to be in spring training for the full spring training to be ready for the season.”

Sanchez is saying all the right things, and his approach to this upcoming season highlights his level of commitment. But is he ready to shoulder the load nightly?

“Time will tell.”