When you look through Yankees history, offensive minded catchers are woven as part of the team’s fabric. Players like the iconic Yogi Berra and more recently Jorge Posada quickly come to mind. The Yankees have another player looking to continue the tradition of catchers in team history. His name is Gary Sanchez and his path hasn’t been easy.
Huge expectations were bestowed on the 16-year old Sanchez almost immediately, as he was signed to a very lucrative contract during the 2009 International Free Agency period. At the time, many considered Sanchez one of the top players available with his raw power and strong arm.
2010 would bring the Dominican native stateside, where he would split time between the Gulf Coast League and Short Season-A affiliate Staten Island. His first taste of professional baseball would end with impressive overall numbers and as expected, his touted power was the carrying tool.
Sanchez has been younger than his competition at every level that he has played, but it would also come with a price. Maturity issues would first come to light in 2011 when he earned a demotion for what was termed as “attitude problems.”
Fast forward to 2014 and maturity issues would again come into play as Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin would bench his catching prospect for disciplinary issues. With controversy surrounding Sanchez, speculation began circulating about whether or not he had a future in the organization. Further fueling the fire was the fact that the team had All-Star Brian McCann in place and signed to a long term deal.
It can be said that 2015 was the turning point in Sanchez’s career. He found personal growth and dedicated himself to improving his defensive reputation. The proof was in the pudding as he allowed only two passed balls after allowing five times that in 2014 and also provided solid offense between Trenton and Scranton. The Yankees rewarded his turnaround with a call-up to the big club in September, where he received two at bats. His stock continued to soar as he was sent to Arizona to play in the fall league, where he hit .295 with a league best seven home runs and tied for the league lead with 21 runs batted in.
The Yankees clearly believe in Gary Sanchez’s ability and progression after they dealt John Ryan Murphy to Minnesota during the offseason. He comes into camp with a shot at earning the back-up catching job with the Yankees, but it hasn’t been a smooth road to get there. Will he join the ranks of Jorge Posada in Yankee lore? Nobody knows, but his future is much brighter than it was a couple of years ago.