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Making the case for Gary Sanchez as American League Rookie of the Year

He hasn’t played as many games as some other players, but Sanchez has been more impactful to his team.

MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

To this point in the season, Gary Sanchez has only played 42 games for the Yankees. Not because he was hurt or ineffective, but because his team flirted with selling or buying at the deadline right up until the end, and kept him at Triple-A because of it. Since finally being called up and given a shot, Sanchez has done nothing but hit. Only one player ever hit 16 home runs faster than Sanchez. Ever.

The fact that the Yankees found themselves just one game back of a playoff spot days ago is a testament to what Sanchez has been able to accomplish. Without him, that simply doesn’t happen. In terms of Fangraphs WAR, Sanchez trails only Corey Seager and Trea Turner in all of baseball among rookie position players. He leads the American League rookie hitters with 2.9 fWAR, with his closest competition, Tyler Naquin coming in at 2.1 in 107 games. Michael Fulmer of the Tigers, who many see as the favorite for AL Rookie of the Year, has accumulated 2.5 WAR in 148.2 innings.

Both Fulmer and Naquin have played for their team more this year, but neither has been as good as Sanchez has. Sanchez has topped both of them pretty handily with a number of fewer games. There may be an argument out there than Sanchez might not be as good if he had played 100 games for the Yankees, but there is no way to know. That wasn’t in his control. He has played the games he has been given and excelled to the highest degree.

To deprive Sanchez of an award because his team didn’t allow him to play more games would be foolish. Precedent already exists for players who have played under 100 games with Carlos Correa, Wil Myers, and Ryan Howard all taking home the award with fewer than 100 games under their belt.

Putting Sanchez in the same conversation as a Hall of Famer might be premature, but Willie McCovey won the Rookie of the Year award in 1959 having played just 52 games. McCovey was given the award, despite the number of games he played, because he was just better than his competition by a wide margin. That is the same case with Gary Sanchez this season.

With 17 home runs, a 191 wRC+, and strong defense, Sanchez is a very worthy candidate for Rookie of the Year. His numbers are just better than the competition. If he doesn’t win, it won’t be because he didn’t earn it, but because he was punished for the Yankees waiting so long to unleash the Kraken on the rest of baseball.