While most teams would love to have Gary Sanchez on their roster, his time with the New York Yankees could be running out.
With the New York Yankees waiting for their pivotal 2020 campaign to resume, they’re still expecting big things from their All-Star catcher and are hopeful Gary Sanchez will be able to remain healthy this season.
Despite New York’s faith in their slugging catcher, it would make a lot of sense to cut ties with Sanchez in the near future. While he isn’t scheduled to enter the free-agent market until after the 2022 campaign, letting him walk would be very beneficial for the Yankees.
Ever since the 2016 season, Sanchez has been one of the best hitting catchers throughout the major leagues. But he’s been unable to stay healthy through a full season, preventing him from reaching his full potential.
In 2016, the Silver Slugger award winner mashed his way up to the major leagues and caught everyone’s attention with his impressive power swing, leading to 20 home runs through just 53 games.
During his first full season in the majors, Sanchez hit 33 home runs, 90 RBIs, .253 ISO, .304 BABIP, .368 wOBA, 131 wRC+ score, 4.3 fWAR rating along with a slashing line of .278/.345/.531/.876.
Despite his impressive results at the plate, injuries limited the right-hander to just 122 games in 2017. Furthermore, staying on the field is something that he’s failed to accomplish in each of the last three seasons.
After he missed a month with a strained bicep in 2017, Sanchez was placed on the injured list two separated times with a groin strain and he also battled through calf soreness as well, limiting him to just 89 games (13 games in the DH spot) in 2018.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, the two-time All-Star’s injury woes carried into last season. As a result, he required multiple trips to the IL because of a nagging groin strain and played only 106 games (90 games behind the plate) during the 2019 campaign.
Along with Sanchez’s inability to remain healthy, he’s also struggled mightily with his defense throughout his entire career and has become a major liability behind the plate for the Yankees.
Among all catchers who played at least 1,000 innings, “The Kraken” has generated the most passed balls (41), second-most errors (34), 19th-worst framing score (-6.1), 26th-fewest DRS (two) and he finished tied with the 29th-worst defensive rating (20.4) since 2017.
In addition, Sanchez’s fielding woes were at an all-time high during the 2019 campaign, ranking him as one of the worst defensive catchers in the majors.
Overall, the Dominican native committed 15 errors (first among all catchers with at least 700 innings) and he recorded a -6.8 framing score (eighth-worst), -5.1 framing runs (15th-worst), -6.3 FRAA (16th-worst), -2 DRS and a -0.8 blocking runs last season.
While new catching coach Tanner Swanson might be able to help Sanchez improve these terrible metrics in 2020, the offense-first catcher has a lot of work to do before he’ll be completely trusted behind the plate.
This past offseason, the Yankees avoided arbitration with their signal-caller by agreeing to a one-year, $5 million contract for the 2020 campaign. Regardless of his defense and health, the 6-foot-2 catcher will likely be slated for a significant raise next winter if he’s able to replicate his offensive results.
At this rate, it seems very likely that Sanchez will be able to command somewhere around $15 million during his third and final year of arbitration. Unless he proves his defensive concerns and health issues are behind him, the Yankees shouldn’t re-sign their power-hitting catcher after the 2022 campaign.
Instead, New York could replace Sanchez with two of their top catching prospects. Currently, both Josh Breaux and Anthony Seigler are on track to reach the major leagues by 2022 and either of them could be ready to take over as the starting catcher during the 2023 campaign.
Starting with Breaux, the 23rd top prospect within New York’s minor-league system according to MLB.com, his 6-foot-1 frame and raw strength profile him to be a very similar hitter to Sanchez. The 22-year-old’s skills at the plate also exceed his defensive capabilities, making him an offense-first catcher.
The former second-round pick found his footing during his second professional season last year as he produced 13 home runs, 49 RBIs, .246 ISO, .320 BABIP, .378 wOBA, 141 wRC+ score along with a slashing line of .271/.324/.518/.842 through 216 plate appearances at low-A Charleston.
Through 2018-19, Breaux was plagued by elbow soreness, forcing him to spend more time as the DH rather than behind the plate. But a healthy 2020 campaign should allow the right-hander to improve his blocking, framing and allow him to showcase his impressive arm strength as well.
As for Seigler, the Yankees’ 15th top prospect, he has the potential to become a more polished and improved catcher than both Sanchez and Breaux. However, injuries have also prevented him from showcasing his full potential.
Despite battling through hamstring issues and a concussion in 2018, the 20-year-old performed beyond expectations as he hit two doubles, one home run, four RBIs, .139 ISO, .393 BABIP, .428 wOBA, 14.3% walk rate, 16.7% strikeout rate, 158 wRC+ score and a slashing line of .333/.429/.472/.901 through 42 plate appearances with the Pulaski Yankees.
While a fractured patella in Seigler’s knee ended his 2019 campaign after just 30 games, he was still able to display his outstanding athleticism and impressive framing skills before his season came to a close. If he’s able to stay healthy this season, he could quickly surge through New York’s minor-league system in 2020.
Along with New York having internal options to replace Sanchez, he’ll also be entering his age-30 season in 2023, putting him at a higher risk for a serious injury. Even though the Yankees would be replacing him with two frequently injured catchers, their ages lower the risk for a potential injury.
While fans have come to adore Sanchez, it just doesn’t make sense for New York to extend him beyond the 2022 campaign. Unless he can remain healthy throughout the majority of the next three seasons, a breakup is likely on the horizon for the Yankees’ slugger.
Note: All stats from FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.