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2019 Season-In-Review - Gary Sanchez


There's an old saying that goes, "You can't predict baseball." In general, that statement is true. The game has been played for well over a century and even with all that time to learn and all the advanced stats available to us in 2019, the game is still as unpredictable as ever.

That being said, there are a few players you can pencil in their season stats in March and be pretty darn close once October comes around. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez seems to be turning into one of those players early in his career as his 2019 went fairly close to how we expected back in Spring Training.

Let's look back at how the past season treated the Sanchize and what we should expect going forward.

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Old Reliable

Sanchez did what he always does with the bat, which is hitting for massive power while hitting for a low batting average thanks to a ton of strikeouts and a low BABIP. He ranked first among catchers with 34 home runs while putting up excellent run and RBI numbers on a per-game basis.

The other thing we can, unfortunately, pencil in for Sanchez is missing games. Sanchez had multiple stints on the injured list again this season most notably with a late-season groin strain which is the same injury that caused him to miss time towards the end of the 2018 season. Sanchez has played three full seasons in the Big Leagues, and the 122 games he played in 2017 is his career-high. Sanchez has played just 195 games over the past two seasons due to a myriad of injuries.

When he was on the field, however, Sanchez was the difference-maker at catcher that fantasy drafters were hoping for when they paid a premium for the right to have power from fantasy's weakest position. Sanchez's 34 homers were a career-high and he slashed .232/.316/.525, joining Willson Contreras as the only catchers to slug above .500. His .293 ISO lead all catchers by a country mile and he finished top-five at catcher in runs, RBI, and homers despite finishing 10th in plate appearances.

Sanchez backed up his elite power numbers by improving his batted ball profile as well. He put up a 42.1 percent hard contact rate, a new career-high, and had more batted ball events that lead to fantasy production, especially when compared to his disappointing 2018.

In 2018, Sanchez batted a ghastly .186 thanks largely to a .197 BABIP. Many fantasy drafters looked at the BABIP and assumed positive regression was due. Some was in fact due to bad luck, his BABIP bounced back a little in 2019 up to .244, but a lot of his struggles in 2018 were poor contact. Sanchez hit 42.9 percent ground balls in 2018, which is fine for a speedster like Billy Hamilton, but for a slow, power-hitting catcher, that many grounders is a recipe for failure, especially when coupled with his 19.2 percent infield-fly-ball rate. Throw in a 25.1 percent strikeout rate and you have a sub-.200 hitter.

This season, however, Sanchez made improvements in his swing and the results showed. He upped his line drive rate from 14.3 percent to 20.3 percent and improved his fly ball rate from 42.9 percent to 47.6 percent. These batted balls came at the expense of grounders and pop-ups and while he did strike out a bit more this year, he was able to raise his batting average back up to a number fantasy owners can live with in exchange for his elite power production.

 

2020 Projected Value

Moving forward, Sanchez will continue to be in the conversation for the first catcher drafted in fantasy, though probably not as high overall as he was being drafted this season. Going into 2018, the catcher landscape was Sanchez, J.T. Realmuto and a lot of unflattering starting options before getting to the real dregs of the position.

That likely will not be the case heading into 2019 as catcher actually looks deeper for fantasy than it's been in several years. Breakouts from Grandal and Wilson Ramos combined with the emergence of several exciting young players such as Will Smith mean there will be more startable catchers to go around and there won't be as much of a positional advantage to be had paying up for Sanchez or Realmuto.

That being said, Sanchez should still be the first catcher off the board when 2019 drafts commence. Realmuto has been more consistent in recent seasons, but he did not take the leap many predicted moving from Miami to Philadelphia. Sanchez has his injury history, yes, but when he's on the field no catcher is more of a difference-maker in fantasy. Baseball is a long season so if owners need to deal with an IL stint here or there so be it.

For my money, give me the only catcher in baseball with legitimate 45-homer upside if he can stay on the field. Injuries are a lazy excuse not to draft a certain player as anyone can get hurt, especially at catcher. Sanchez will be an absolute monster when he's on the field and if he stays healthy no other catcher can touch his power production. He plays in an extremely hitter-friendly home park in the middle of what should be another stacked Yankees lineup in the league where he can DH when other top catching options would need an off day.

Draft Sanchez confidently starting around the sixth round of 12-team fantasy leagues and pencil in 35-40 homers from a position other owners won't get 30. Just have a contingency plan in place if Sanchez needs another IL stint.

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