Yankees fans have long dreamt of the day when the club would let the kids play. For too long, when a need arose, the Yankees would look outside of the organization for help. Think back to 2013 and 2014. That’s how players like Reid Brignac, Brent Lillibridge, Chris Nelson, and Chris Capuano donned pinstripes. Remember them? The farm system just wasn’t equipped to assist the big league roster.
That began to change last year. Fans witnessed the emergence of a youth movement as Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Mason Williams, Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, and a variety of bullpen arms all made their major league debuts. This trend has continued throughout the 2016 season, and accelerated in the wake of the trade deadline fire sale. Most notably, the Yankees called up top catching prospect Gary Sanchez on August 3rd.
Prior to this call up, Sanchez received a cup of coffee last year, and was tapped for a spot start against Chris Sale back in May. This marks his first extended look, and he has certainly earned it. In 71 games at Triple-A, he put up an impressive .282/.339/.468 (132 wRC+) slash line. Sanchez was also named the International League’s best defensive catcher by Baseball America. He simply mastered the level.
In his four games since being called up, Sanchez has hit three doubles, two singles, and picked up three RBI. It doesn’t look like he’s overmatched at the plate as he has fouled off a number of good pitches and one of his doubles came off of 2014 American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. That’s a brand name. Not bad at all.
Sanchez has also held his own in the pair of games he started behind the plate. He was always going to be a project at catcher, but he’s looked good so far. The pitchers seem to trust his game calling. Plus, he’s shown off that cannon of an arm. Have you seen these throws? The arm strength is incredible. He has as close to an 80-grade arm as you can get.
Thanks to a new philosophy in the front office, the Yankees can now show off their rocket-armed young catcher. For the first time in decades this team gave up on a season in order to focus on future and the next great Yankees team.
Right now the Yankees are carrying three catchers, which is not an ideal use of a roster spot. Add in the fact that they have had Alex Rodriguez permanently glued to the bench and you’re really limiting what Joe Girardi can do. In a pennant race, this is suicidal. It’s terribly inefficient. But now it’s okay because the Yankees aren’t focusing on a postseason run. They can give Sanchez an extended look at the major league level, and that’s a good thing.
He gets to catch big league pitching and learn their repertoires. He also gets to study opposing hitters and identify their weaknesses, an under-discussed aspect of catching. Plus, he’s now surrounded by successful catchers from whom he can learn from. There’s Girardi, Tony Pena, Brian McCann, and even Austin Romine can even assist Sanchez in his development. He’s poised to take leaps forward at the big leagues.
One of the more fun aspects of the recent Yankees has been the infusion of young talent onto the roster. Sanchez is as electric as they come, and fans are in for a treat watching him play. If it wasn’t for the fire sale, its unlikely that he arrives before the roster expands on September 1st. Instead, the team can now carry three catchers without worrying too much about it. Is it ideal? No, but it’s worth the extended look at the Yankees catcher of the future.