Aaron Boone, Gary Sanchez
AP Photo/Duane Burleson

Aaron Boone defended catcher Gary Sanchez on MLB Network Friday afternoon, setting a lofty goal for the bounce back candidate.

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone has had to defend catcher Gary Sanchez a lot since last year.

After an absolutely miserable 2020 campaign, Sanchez found himself on the outside looking in during much of the postseason. But in an appearance Friday on MLB Network’s “High Heat”, Boone reiterated his belief that Sanchez is still a special player.

“In a lot of ways, Gary was in a much better place at the end of the season, certainly than he was the first month and a half” Boone said. “I expect Gary to be an all-star catcher this year.”

It’s about as lofty a goal as a manager can set for a player coming off an unmitigated disaster of a season. Sanchez was quite simply terrible in 2020. He slashed .147/.253/.365 for an OPS of .618 and OPS+ of 69. He posted a WAR of -0.3. And worst of all, he had a career high whiff rate at 34% and a strikeout rate of a whopping 36%, placing him in the top 2% of the league in strikeout rate.

It’s not all bad though. Sanchez still hits the ball as hard as anybody when he actually makes contact. He had a hard hit rate of 50% and a barrel rate of 17.4% with an average exit velocity of 91.8 mph.

There’s still hope for Gary Sanchez. It may not seem like it after his disaster of a season in 2020, but Boone sees it. Setting him up for an all-star appearance may be a little bit of overcompensating, but there’s almost no way for him to be worse in 2021 than he was in 2020.

I don’t see an all-star game in the cards for Sanchez this season. I see marked improvement over his 2020 production. But I don’t see an all-star game. Of course, I could be dead wrong on this. When Sanchez is right, there are very few hitters in Major League Baseball that can do what he can. We just haven’t seen that version of Gary Sanchez in a long time.

For now, let’s just hope that Sanchez gets his feet back under him. And that he can contribute to one of the most dangerous lineups in the league on a consistent basis.

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