Gary Sanchez burst on the scene in 2016 with his powerful bat but his defense was questionable. He led the league in passed balls with 16 in 2017 and then again with 18 in 2018.
It was August 2017 when Joe Girardi bluntly said, “He needs to improve. Bottom line.”
Though his errors increased this season, he allowed only seven passed balls in 2019, despite catching nearly 90 more innings.
“He’s done a good job this year,” Zack Britton said before Game 2 of the ALDS. “Even last year, I was presently surprised. I had heard a lot of negative things about him. I didn’t find any of it to be true. I thought he was a really good catcher, actually, has a good feel for game calling.”
The southpaw reliever noted that the New York bullpen has a number of pitchers with a signature pitch, which could make things easier for Sanchez.
“I think he does a good job of incorporating guys’ secondary pitches,” Britton said. “I’ve been really happy with Gary. I think he’s made a lot of strides.”
His blazing start in 2016 meant sky-high expectations ever since. His bat met the challenge in 2017 but Austin Romine started a playoff game. Last year, Sanchez hit .186 as the passed balls piled up. But this year he raised his average 46 points and hit a career-high 34 home runs. And the passed balls are down. In fact, Austin Romine only allowed one fewer passed ball in about 180 less innings of catching.
“For me, you never know what to expect coming in with a new catcher,” Adam Ottavino said. “I know there’s been a narrative about his catching. I thought he’s been pretty awesome this whole year.”
The right-hander with the nasty slider said he was on the same page quickly.
“It only took him like three games in Spring Training to figure out kind of my MO and just kind of go from there,” Ottavino said. “He’s real easy to talk to. He works really hard. He pays attention. I’m guessing he’s come a long way, but I think he’s doing a pretty good job.”