One focus for the Yankees as they enter spring training will be on the growth of one of their prized young players, catcher Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez burst on the scene in 2016, had a strong year at the plate the following season, but had a tough 2018 in which he played only 89 games due to injury and saw his average dip to .189, with 18 home runs and 53 RBI.
Sanchez did end last season on a high note, as he had a strong Division Series against the Red Sox, including when he hit two home runs in Game 2 at Fenway Park.
In the offseason, Sanchez had shoulder surgery, which the Yankees hope will keep him healthy this season and improve his defense.
On Wednesday, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of what he expects from his young catcher, “I think it certainly helps, and to see how he’s kind of evolved over the last month, from his progression from that surgery, he’s doing really well, he’s body’s in really good shape.
“I think he’s going to have a great year for us on both sides of the ball. I’m really excited about his frame of mind right now, and we’re counting on and expecting him to go out and be a great player for us.”
Boone said of what is particularly different about Sanchez compared to last season, “I just think he’s a year more mature. I think going through some of the things he went through last year, I’ve said this a lot with you guys, is, you know, bumps in the road, struggles, especially as a young player, can be great things in the grand scheme of things for a career, especially when you’re as talented as a guy like Gary, and there’s no question that I think the things he went through last year physically, I think will benefit him moving forward.
“I’ve spent some time with him this offseason, went down to the Dominican, spent some time, and the conversations I’ve had from him, I feel like it’s a young player that’s another year along, another year mature, and another guy that, frankly, is very hungry to go out and show the world how good a player he is.”
Boone said of what he learned about Sanchez when he visited him in the Dominican Republic, “I feel like I’ve developed a really good relationship with him over the last year. We’ve had a lot of conversations over the past year, so I don’t know necessarily learning more, I think getting to go and have dinner with him and his wife in his country, and to deepen the relationship and to see him talk passionately about things that matter to him.
“I do feel like there’s been a growth there and a maturity there that comes out when I’m around him, when I talk to him now. There’s a real hunger to go out and show the world what a good player he is. That’s what feels palpable to me about him right now and where he’s at, not only physically – because he’s in a really good place physically and his body’s in good shape and all the testing he’s doing behind the scenes suggests that he’s physically in a really good place- but I think mentally, I feel like he’s ready to go out and, in a lot of ways, take charge.”