2016 Statistics: Triple-A - 71 games, .282/.339/.468, 10 home runs, 131 wRC+
MLB - 53 games, .299/.376/.657, 20 home runs, 171 wRC+
Gary Sanchez was one of the brightest spots for the Yankees after selling at the trade deadline, presenting a glimpse into how exciting the future might be. He came up in August and did nothing but rake from that point on. In an ideal world, Sanchez would win the Rookie of the Year award because he flat out dominated his competition. In reality, he probably won’t because of how long it took the Yankees to give him a shot.
Despite playing 100 fewer games than Didi Gregorius, who had a fantastic year in his own right, Sanchez led Yankees position players in WAR by a fairly wide margin. Not only was Sanchez impressive at the plate, he was very good behind it as well. He threw out 13 of 32 runners and picked off an additional two, and that doesn't factor in his impressive framing and blocking abilities. It wasn’t all that long ago that people questioned Sanchez’s ability to stay behind the plate, but it seems like those questions have been answered.
It seems all but certain that Sanchez will start 2017 as the Yankees’ primary catcher. Brian McCann could be traded in the offseason, but would serve as a fine backup catcher and DH option if the Yankees choose to keep him around. Either way, it feels like Sanchez has usurped his spot on the team with two years remaining on his contract.
When it comes to Rookie of the Year voting, Sanchez probably doesn’t make the cut. Voters will likely argue that he didn’t play in enough games to win, which is unfortunate. Sanchez made the most of the time he was given by his team, and was the best rookie in the American League. Detroit’s Michael Fulmer will likely bring home the award because he spent more time in MLB, but he wasn’t as dominant as Sanchez. Maybe you can argue that Sanchez might have gotten worse in a bigger sample size, but that would have been in his control. Not playing more games wasn’t his decision.
Rookie of the Year aside, Sanchez’s performance in 2016 is a great signal that the future of the Yankees may be very bright. The core of the team is getting younger and Sanchez should have plenty of company going forward. Seeing a player rise up through the system and pay off at the big league level is always the dream when it comes to sustaining a pipeline of talent, and it seems as though the Yankees are finally in a place to see some of that pay off.