TAMPA, Fla. – For the second straight day Gary Sanchez hit in the same group as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
And for the second straight day, generally speaking, his time in the cage gave the majority of fans and media an opportunity to save the battery on their camera phones until Judge and Stanton stepped back in.
Sanchez, who has a bit of power himself, laughed at the suggestion he’d taken batting practice somewhat anonymously the last two days.
“What can you say?” Sanchez, 25, said through his translator. “Those guys, they hit some moonshots. Mine, they barely go over the fence.”
Sanchez, of course, is selling himself a bit short in that department. The catcher hit 33 homers in just 122 games last season and, though such things matter not at all, outperformed Stanton and Judge during BP on Monday. Sanchez hit his share again Tuesday, though it was Judge commanding the day, at least in terms of eliciting the most “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd.
“Whenever you have Giancarlo and Judge hitting long shots, I’m watching myself, I’m a fan at that time when they’re hitting those shots,” Sanchez said. “I know why they (the fans) come out and want to watch everything.”
As Yankees fans well know, Sanchez is more than capable of putting on his own show. During his standout 2017, for example, Sanchez knocked out the No. 1 seed in the Home Run Derby in the first round in Miami, a player by the name of Giancarlo Stanton, who had the raucous support of the home crowd.
“No, I’m not going to say anything,” Sanchez smiled. “Most likely I’m not going to be able to beat him a second time.”
In this camp Sanchez is the only one downplaying his abilities at the plate. Rival team scouts consistently pick the catcher as the club’s most complete hitter and new manager Aaron Boone practically glows when discussing Sanchez.
“Gary rakes, that’s what I think,” Boone said. “He’s special. I do think he gets overlooked. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do again this year. We’re going to work really hard in aiding him and hopefully allowing him to continue to get better on both sides of the ball, but he is special when he stands in that box.”
Sanchez did have his struggles on the other side of the ball last season, leading the American League with 16 passed balls. The Yankees also ranked third-worst in the AL in wild pitches with 83, a statistic typically reflecting the defensive ability of the catcher.
Working on that aspect of the game was an offseason priority.
“This past offseason I worked really hard on defense because I want to be better than last year, I want to fix all the little issues I had last year defensively and I want to keep improving,” Sanchez said. “That’s the bottom line, just keep improving.”
Sanchez, though not specifically targeted by MLB in its recent pace-of-play initiatives that include capping mound visits at six per game, would rank high among catchers in frequency of such visits.
He called the MLB mandate, which came down Monday, “a big change,” one that will “be a little difficult” to adjust to. He said the reason for the visits can vary.
“Sometimes you go out to talk to them (pitchers), maybe to help in any way possible, to help calm them down, sometimes it’s to change a sign, sometimes it’s both,” Sanchez said. “A combination of things. (There’s) not one main reason why, it depends what’s going on in the game.”
Playing in the large shadow cast by Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez had an outstanding season at the plate in 2017 and led AL catchers in the following offensive categories: