Gary Sanchez has played just three weeks’ worth of games in the majors so far, but he has already made a major impact for the New York Yankees. After a lackluster first four months that saw them waver between contenders and pretenders, the Bombers jettisoned Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline and helped wheel out Mark Teixeira so he could announce his retirement after this season. They also released some bench-riding scrub named Alex Rodriguez, but no matter. Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Sanchez were called up, and so far it’s that last one who has garnered the most attention.
Sanchez burst onto the scene with a .405 batting average to go with 11 home runs and 21 RBIs in his first 22 games. He is the fastest human being to make it to 11 home runs in the history of the major leagues, and that includes some pretty outstanding players. He will inevitably cool off at some point, but these numbers are impressive by every standard. He replaced Brian McCann as the team’s starting catcher and moved right to the number-three spot in the lineup. McCann has some trade value with his 16 home runs, but maybe Brian Cashman shouldn’t point out that he’s batted just .231 since the beginning of the 2014 season. Regardless, it appears that Sanchez will be staying put.
Yankees fans have seen this movie before and will enjoy the ride with a cautious eye. Kevin Maas similarly burst onto the scene in 1990 as the heir apparent to Don Mattingly. Maas wowed fans as the fastest player ever to 10, 13, and 15 home runs. He finished with 21 home runs and came in second in the Rookie of the Year voting even though he didn’t play his first game until June 29. Maas went on to hit 44 more home runs, but unfortunately for him they were spread out over the next five seasons. He is now arguably the most famous financial consultant in California.
In 1998, Shane Spencer came up as a September call-up and smacked 10 home runs, including three grand slams. This was a historically successful team, and Spencer went on to win the World Series with them and then the next two, but he never quite lived up to that lofty beginning. He finished his career with the New York Mets six years later with 59 career home runs.
Sanchez does have power. He hit 18 home runs last year at two levels of the minors and 13 the year before that, while batting in the respectable .270 range. He provides offense at a position not normally known for it, making his current feats all the more remarkable. We don’t yet know if he’ll be the next coming of Maas, Spencer, Jorge Posada, or somewhere in between, but for now it sure is fun to watch. The Yankees won’t be in the playoffs this year even if he hits another 75 home runs, but the jolt of energy he added to the lineup gives fans hope that after all these years of declining and aging players, the Yankees might just have a promising future.