When Yankees rookie catcher Gary Sanchez blasted an opposite field home run against Baltimore Orioles starter Dylan Bundy on Saturday, it was Sanchez’s 11th homer in 23 career games, making the 23-year-old Dominican catcher the first player in the history of the game to hit that many homers so quickly.
Sanchez is the ace of a youth movement that exists throughout the Yankees organization, signifying the official beginning of the "Hal and Hank Steinbrenner Era”
The Yankees returned to the scouting-intensive philosophy they utilized under such brilliant minds as Bob Watson and Gene Michael back in their most recent dynasty days. That philosophy produced Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, who became the core of the Yankees Dynasty in the late 90s and early 2000s.
They were homegrown dudes. Sanchez signed with the New York Yankees as an international free agent out of Santo Domingo in July 2009, receiving a $3 million signing bonus
After ripping through most of his minor league assignments and experiencing a cup of coffee at the MLB level, the Yankees again promoted Sánchez to the major leagues on August 3, and he recorded his first major league hit, a single off Hansel Robles. His first pro blast was on August 10th and that was the beginning of a tear that has elevated Sanchez to overnight celebrity status in New York, a three-hole hitter and the future of the Yankees.
On August 22, Sánchez won AL Player of the Week after banging four home runs and hitting .523. He’s continued his torrid hitting and proved to have some leather luster behind the plate. Best Yankees catcher since Posada, for sure.
Sanchez isn’t the only young stud in the organization, which is now ripe with prospects. Ballers like Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin and others have jumped to the majors this year. Greg Bird, who hit 11 homers in 46 games as a rookie in 2015 will be back in 2017 after suffering season-ending shoulder injury this past spring.
It was hard for the Yankees brass to finally bite the bullet, accept their current state as an average franchise and say the forbidden word in the Bronx -- “rebuild.”
For years, the knock on the Yankees was that they had no farm system, relied on high-priced free agents and used their superior economic position to cover up mistakes and misses, buying their way to glory. It seemed the Yankees had become content on just contending, while losing a penny-pinching game that is as foreign to Yankees fans as the music of James Brown is to current hip-pop fans.
Then all of a sudden, they traded off some veteran pieces and decided to replenish the farm system. Aroldis Chapman, the best closer in the game didn’t even get his feet wet in New York as he was shipped to Chicago. Another bullpen bulldog, Andrew Miller, was shipped to Cleveland. Carlos Beltran was shipped, A-Rod was forced into retirement and Mark Teixeira decided to call it quits at the end of the season.
Yankees fans should be elated, but don't write anything in stone yet. We have seen guys break into the majors on legendary hot streaks in the past and then cool off almost to a hard freeze as the league caught up to them and the law of averages took over. Yasiel Puig came out of the gate embarrassing pitchers, but he hasn’t had anything close to the success he’s had in those first few months of his rookie season.
In fact, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Los Angeles placed the 25-year-old outfielder on waivers Sunday. Puig hit just .260 with seven home runs in 81 games this season before being sent down to Triple-A at the start of August.
The mighty fall quickly in MLB.
The Dodgers signed Puig to a $42 million contract once he escaped from Cuba and his rise was swift, meteoric and cosigned by the best in the business. An ESPN piece from June 19, 2013 says this about Puig:
“Now the kid is a sensation, and people are actually debating whether he should be an All-Star after 13 games and 48 at-bats in the majors. Puig has captivated fans in Los Angeles and energized scouts who spend so much time packing and unpacking they can't remember what city they're in half the time.
How impressive is Puig? All that speed and power come in an imposing 6-foot-3, 235-pound package, so Bo Jackson's name is getting tossed around a lot these days. One talent evaluator contacted for this story compared him to Roberto Clemente, and an AL scout seemed grateful for the opportunity to talk about him.”
(Photo Credit: fansided.com)
The same crazy talk is taking over the social media machine again. This time, some people are tossing Sanchez's name out there as a possible AL Rookie of the Year candidate after recording a record 31 hits (along with his 11 dingers) in his first 23 games.
Power hitters are addictive to fans.The home run in baseball is still special and when a guy can produce them at a prolific rate, it skews the reality of the situation a bit and elevates him to a level that is probably way above his actual ability.
But if a player is going to go on a record-breaking power surge, he might as well do it in his rookie season, gain some early cache with the fans and some instant credibility for what can be an up-and-down major league career.
If Sanchez played in these last 33 games and did end up winning the ROY award, it wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened. Hall of Famer Willie McCovey finished his 1959 rookie season with 52 games and 219 plate appearances and he won ROY unanimously, hitting 13 homers with a 1.085 OPS, which is the rookie record for players with at least 200 plate appearances.
No one knows how long this streak of immortal batsmanship will last. It’s safe to say, however, that the future of the Yankees is looking up and as they scrape back into this playoff race with the infusion of some young blood and a new philosophy. "Sanchize" is the guy that is leading the charge and asserting himself as the next great home grown Yankee.