Back in late July, the New York Yankees traded a bunch of veteran players and began calling up a number of their top prospects. One of these prized prospects was catcher Gary Sanchez. Since becoming an everyday player, Sanchez has posted a ridiculous .327/.399/.710 slash line as the Yankees made a late push towards a playoff spot. What was once a crazy thought has gained momentum, Sanchez could very well win the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
The Case for Gary Sanchez to Win AL Rookie of the Year
Disclaimer: small sample sizes are very dangerous to make assumptions off of. Okay, now that is out of the way, it’s time to discuss why Sanchez is a deserving choice for ROY.
An Offensive Force
In addition to his crazy slash line, Sanchez has posted a 2.7 WAR since getting called up, which is one of the best in all of baseball. To put that in perspective, both Tyler Naquin (0.6 WAR) and Tim Anderson (2.0 WAR) have played in more games with less impressive WARs. In fact, the only rookie in the AL that has a superior WAR to Sanchez is Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer (4.7).
All of these rookies have been impressive, but one of the key points in favor of Sanchez’s case for the award is his position. Hitting catchers have been something of a lost commodity these last few years, but Sanchez has provided quite a jolt from a normally light-hitting position. Per Fangraphs, a catcher with an OPS+ of 85 would be considered useful. Sanchez is currently at 187.
No Slouch on Defense
In addition his prowess with the bat, Sanchez has been no slouch defensively. He has a cannon for an arm, as he has thrown out 5% more runners than the average catcher. His pitch framing has improved dramatically over the last two years (since being promoted to Triple-A). Fielding Runs Above Average notes that Sanchez has generated 3.5 runs of defensive value during his short big league career.
The elephant in the room here is Sanchez’s short tenure on the Yankees roster, especially compared to Fulmer’s time with the Tigers. Fulmer has been consistently excellent for the Tigers from the beginning of the season. Sanchez lit the world on fire on his way to winning AL Player of the Month for his August exploits.
While everyone knew Sanchez wouldn’t be able to keep up his blistering pace, his production hasn’t waned dramatically. He’s still posted an OPS+ of 122 in September, while he has been coming across teams for a second and third go-around. The power is still there, as evidence by his 18 home runs (an average of one home run every 9.5 at bats!), all while the Yankees played themselves into the Wild Card race.
Regression was always expected for Sanchez, but Fulmer hasn’t been able to avoid it either. Sanchez was never going to post a 250 OPS+, but Fulmer has cooled off a bit too, as he his ERA has climbed to 3.03 and his ERA+ has dipped to 136.
When the season ends, Gary Sanchez will have played in only 54 games, which would be the fewest by a position player to win the award since 1959. Some may argue that, based on that small sample size, Sanchez doesn’t deserve consideration for the award. If you take a step back and see how historically great Sanchez has been since his arrival in New York, it won’t even matter.