The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Gary Sanchez Next Catcher in Line to Extend Yankees' Dynasty

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are getting most of the publicity this spring on the New York Yankees team.  Stanton’s addition over the winter has baseball analysts and fans drooling about the prospect of what the two behemoths can do offensively, including comparisons with past legendary Yankees power duos, Ruth-Gehrig and Mantle-Maris.

But the guy who just might be the key to the next edition of the Yankees Dynasty is catcher Gary Sanchez.  It should come as no surprise, since each of the previous Yankees teams that produced championship streaks were built around a standout catcher, even though players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson, Derek, Jeter and others drew most of the attention over the years.

Sanchez has been a top Yankees prospect from the Dominican Republic since he first signed as a 17-year-old in 2009.  In his first pro season in 2010, he was already being rated the Number 2 prospect in the Yankees organization by Baseball America.  His future potential continued to be evaluated highly in annual prospects lists.  It took him six years to finally make his major-league debut with two games in 2015.  But the Yankees front office was patient with his development, since he started out at such an early age.

He began the 2016 season at the Triple-A level, but then got a permanent call-up to the Yankees in early August.  He proceeded to put on one of the best power displays by a rookie during the final two months of the season.  In only 53 games, he slammed 20 home runs and drove in 42 runs, while posting a slash line of .299/.376/.657.  He provided a much-needed offensive boost to help the Yankees stay in contention for a wild-card spot, before the team crumbled during the last two weeks of the season.  Sanchez finished second to Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer in the voting for American League Rookie of the Year.

Sanchez is an integral part of the Yankees’ youth movement that began to materialize in 2016.  He is one of the Yankees’ new “Core Four” which includes Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and Greg Bird, all players who came up through the Yankees farm system like the original “Core Four” of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettit, and Mariano Rivera, who played a generation ago.

Last year Sanchez blossomed into the full star the Yankees were expecting from his early days in their farm system.  In 122 games (he missed a month early in the season due to injury), he slammed 30 home runs and 90 RBI and won the Silver Slugger award for catchers.  He combined with Judge to become a feared one-two punch in the lineup.  When the Yankees led the American League in home runs, the team acquired the label “Baby Bombers,” in a reference to the “Bronx Bombers” of the 1920s and 1930s.  Sanchez and Judge brought the Yankees to the brink of their first World Series since 2009, leading the Houston Astros 3-2 after Game 5 of League Championship Series before losing the last two games.

In the 115 years of the Yankees franchise, 60 of their seasons were manned by only six players who served as the primary catcher of the team.  Those six catchers were involved in 35 of the 40 World Series appearances the Yankees achieved, and they also contributed to 24 of the 27 World Championship teams in the franchise’s history.  To help put those startling numbers into perspective, during the Yankees’ longest dry spell without a post-season appearance (1982-1994), they had seven different regular catchers in just those thirteen seasons.

Here’s a quick review of those six accomplished catchers and the impact they had on building and maintaining the Yankees Dynasty

The first was Wally Schang, who contributed to three World Series beginning in 1921.  Bill Dickey was the Yankees catcher from 1929 to 1943, winning seven of eight World Series appearances.  Yogi Berra became the regular catcher in 1947 and held the job until 1960.  During that time, he was a participant in eleven World Series, winning eight of them.  Elston Howard supplanted Berra as the regular Yankees catcher in 1961 and helped the team win two of four consecutive World Series appearances.  Thurman Munson played in three Yankees World Series during the 1970s, winning two.  Most recently, Jorge Posada, one of the famed Yankees “Core Four” of the late 1990s and 2000s, played on four World Series championship teams.

Of course, Yankees fans would like nothing more than to have Sanchez become the next in line of elite Yankees catcher leading them to more World Series championships.

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