Gary Sanchez, whose August and September this past season will go down in history for the power numbers that he produced, finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting on Monday to Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers. When he was called up in the beginning of August he became the primary catcher and Brian McCann primarily switched to designated hitter.
Sanchez was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on August 3 (he played in one game on May 13) and even though he only played in the last two months he still had a very impressive .299 average with 20 homers, 42 RBI, .376 on-base percentage, .657 slugging percentage, 1.033 OPS and a 3.0 Wins Above Replacement. His 3.0 WAR was 1st in the American League among catchers, his 20 homers were second most in the AL at his position, his 12 doubles were tied for 12 most in the league and his slugging percentage was best in the league among catchers.
The 23-year-old was nearly the back-up catcher to begin the season but the Yankees decided to go with Austin Romine instead so that Sanchez could continue to improve behind the plate. The native of the Dominican who signed with the Yankees as an international free agent when he was 16 will go down in the baseball record books for being the fastest player to reach 19 homers in the modern era of baseball.
On September 21, he hit his 18th and 19th homers in his 45th game of his career. He slugged his 20th homer on September 27, against the Boston Red Sox, to help the Yankees win the first game of the series 6-4. Sanchez also became the first player in Major League Baseball history to have at least 11 homers and 31 hits in his first 23 career games.
Sanchez hit .389 with 11 homers and 21 RBI in his 24 games during the month of August. He was twice named American League Player of the Week during August and was also named and was also voted the leagues rookie and player of the month for August.
“Shoot, if Babe Ruth was hitting behind (Sanchez), you’d intentionally walk him,” Mark Teixeira said. “He’s as hot as any player I’ve ever played with in my entire career. You just don’t see guys doing what he’s doing.”
“The Kraken” is the first Yankees catcher in the 113-year history of the franchise to win rookie of the month or player of the month. The last AL player to win rookie of the month and player of the month in the same month was Jose Abreu of the White Sox in July of 2014. The last AL catcher to be named player of the month before Sanchez was Joe Mauer of the Twins in May of 2009.
He recorded his first hit in his first game on August 3 off of Hansel Robles of the Mets. On August 10, he went a very impressive 4-5 and hit his first MLB home run. Six days later, against the Blue Jays, he had his first two home run game. During August and September he drove in two or more runs 12 times, and on September 21 he drove in five runs and scored a career-high three runs against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Sanchez is only the third Yankee to hit 20 homers after August 1. The other two are Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (he did in in 1927) and Roger Maris (he did the feat in 1961). Ruth and Maris both hit single season homer records when they hit 20 after the beginning of August. Another amazing accomplishment that Sanchez had was hitting eight homers in 11 games during September.
August 3 was the third time that he had been called up, but he only had two at-bats in October of 2015 and four at-bats on May 13 of 2016. The Yankees’ #2 prospect after the 2015 season who has always been known for his offense was really able to improve his defense in the first four months of the year at Triple-A. He threw out 41 percent of base stealers in 2016 with the Yankees because of his strong and accurate arm and had a fielding percentage of .991. McCann, who finished his 12 MLB season, threw out only 23 percent of base stealers.
The voting for Rookie of the Year was not close as Fulmer, the major player the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade in 2015, got 26 of the 30 first-place votes and four seconds on the 30 ballots. Sanchez finished in second place after getting four first- place votes, 23 second-place votes and two third-place votes. Sanchez definitely would have deserved to finish first after putting up numbers that had never been seen in baseball’s history, but Fulmer won based on how he produced for the whole season.
Fulmer, who made 26 starts for the Tigers, had an impressive 3.06 ERA with one shutout, 132 strikeouts, a 1.119 WHIP and only 42 walks in 159 innings pitched. His performance declined at the end of the season as he allowed three runs or more in five of his last seven starts and six runs in two of those starts, but the voters still thought he should be the Rookie of the Year instead of Sanchez.
It is still remarkable what Sanchez did because he produced his stats after playing in only two of the six months of the season. He was gracious in defeat since he tweeted congrats to Fulmer and said he deserves all the praise that he is getting. The positive is that the Yankees have their catcher for at least the next few years after Sanchez showed what he can do in August and September.