For the Yankees fans that lost faith in Gary Sanchez in 2018, his rocky spring training start likely hasn’t done much to change their minds. Sanchez finished the weekend batting just 2-for-13 with a home run and an OBP of .143. Not the kind of numbers that suggest the Kraken has been released.
Sanchez’s slow start has already caused some to express concern about what this means for his 2019 outlook. Those fans and observers should pump the brakes on such takes immediately, regardless of Sanchez’s numbers last year, or his current stats down in Florida.
Watching Sanchez struggle badly last year was especially infuriating because of his proven potential. Anyone who has seen him knows how good he is, and Sanchez showed it through a full season and a half before his 2018 swoon — one that included a pair of groin issues and a shoulder injury that later required surgery. After hearing about the surgery Sanchez underwent back in early November to clean up around his AC joint, it wasn’t a stretch to believe that his prolonged slump last season was injury-related.
The surgery required three months of recovery time, putting Sanchez back in baseball activities in early February, just before spring training games started. In all likelihood, Sanchez is still adjusting to live pitching and working his shoulder back to 100 percent. This is his lead shoulder, which likely requires more time to feel like normal again.
Sanchez has already shown signs of bringing the pop back to his bat, hitting a pair of hard-hit balls to the outfield on Saturday against the Orioles. The Yankees hope this can be the start of consistent hard contact, the kind that Sanchez has displayed for the majority of his young career.
It also shouldn’t be forgotten that we are in the second week of March, still weeks away from meaningful baseball. These concerns have their foundations in a small sample size. Spring training numbers are a notoriously poor way to project regular season performance. To express concern for Sanchez’s 2019 season at this point seems like wasted worry. Should Sanchez enter May with numbers similar to his current spring training slash line, then sure, let’s talk. At this point, given his offseason operation and the fact that again, it’s still early March, it’s probably a good idea to keep the Sanchez concerns subdued.
Whether it was due to injury or a late signing, we’ve seen players with abbreviated offseasons struggle in spring training — and even the earlier parts of the regular season. Look no further than Neil Walker last year. It takes time to become reacquainted to live pitching, especially after having your lead shoulder cleaned up through surgery just five months earlier.
No, it hasn’t been the best start for Sanchez, and a good start could have helped his confidence after last season’s disappointment. It shouldn’t hurt his ego, though, nor the hopes of Yankees fans. It’s still spring, and it’s still Gary Sanchez, who is still one of the best backstops in the game when he’s right. As we stand here in March, Sanchez is working his way to getting right, which isn’t a bad place to be.