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Flash Forward: Gary Sanchez

The Flash Forward series takes a long-term look at a new young player each week, projecting the type of player they’ll be five years from now. 

Superstar catchers are hard to come by as far as fantasy baseball is concerned. There really isn’t a catcher, not named Buster Posey, who has been a consistent fantasy stud year in and year out. Five years down the line, there’s a good chance we’ll be thinking of Gary Sanchez the same way we think of Posey. Sanchez already has a season and a half under his belt, and I expect a lot more is on the way.

Sanchez’s past two seasons and talent make him the top targeted catcher in dynasty leagues. At 25 years old, Sanchez has already won Rookie and Player of the Month awards. He was named to the All-Star team last season, competed in the Home Run Derby, and broke the Yankees’ record for most home runs in a season by a catcher. He finished the season slashing .278/.345/.531 with 33 homers and 90 RBI despite missing most of April.

After 177 games, Sanchez has already established himself as one of the game’s best. Among catchers, Sanchez ranked first in WAR (4.1), OPS (.876), SLG (.531), homers (33), and RBI (90) in 2017. Again, he posted those numbers while missing over 40 games. What’s most impressive is that he’s still making adjustments and improving.

Not only did Sanchez live up to his incredible finish in 2016, he improved on it. He dropped his K-rate from 24.9 percent to 22.9. He also leveled out his contact with a 44.5 percent medium-contact rate. On top of that, he showed he could sustain his impressive hard-contact rate, posting a 36.9 percent mark in 2017, tops among catchers.

Anyone expecting some sort of sophomore slump from Sanchez must’ve been pleasantly surprised. Granted, Sanchez’s rookie season lasted about only two months. 2017 was his first full season, and even though he missed a month, he showed us what he was capable of.

Five years from now, I think we’ll view Sanchez the same way we view Posey — as a consistent, perennial All-Star who is routinely the first catcher off the board on draft day. Sanchez’s power is undeniable, and spending the foreseeable future in a powerhouse lineup will only help. Of course, his biggest hurdle will be his defense. If he continues to let balls past him behind the plate, there’s always the possibility the Yankees experiment with him somewhere else.

While Sanchez’s blocking abilities leave something to be desired, his arm is too valuable to waste. Sanchez has an absolute cannon, and his ability to control the running game behind the plate is a commodity. With new bench coach and former catcher Josh Bard on board, I expect Sanchez’s defense to be the top priority this spring.

Gary Sanchez has already established himself as one of the best hitting catchers in the game. The way I see it, he’s just some defensive adjustments away from being the top all-around backstop. I see him getting there in five years, if not sooner. Sanchez has plenty of work to do, but he is on his way to being one of the game’s best.

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