A couple of years ago, Gary Sánchez was one of, if not the most feared catches at the plate in all of baseball. Sure, his defense stunk, but hitting 53 home runs across 175 games in 2016 and 2017 makes your defensive woes more manageable. After hitting .278 in 2017, it’s been a steep fall from grace for Sanchez. In 2018, he hit just .186 in 89 games, which makes his .232 mark in 2019 look good. However, like many, 2020 wasn’t kind to Sanchez, and has sent his fantasy value in a downward spiral. In 49 games last year, Sanchez hit 10 home runs, which isn’t bad, but his .147 batting average and 36-percent strikeout rate were putrid.

He did have 10 home runs last year, which trailed only Kansas City’s Salvador Perez and Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto. Now, the disconnect lies when you consider nearly half of his hits were home runs. Despite being third in home runs at the position, there were 24 other catchers who had more hits than Sanchez, including Jacob Stallings , Joey Bart , and Max Stassi .

I mentioned his strikeout rate earlier, but as we enter the third paragraph here, it’s time to delve into this deeper. What in the hell happened in 2020 for Sanchez that vaulted his strikeout rate to 36-percent!? Only nine players had a higher strikeout rate than Sanchez, but no player with at least 100 plate appearances had a lower batting average than Sanchez. Struggles on the defensive side of the ball likely affected his mindset at the plate, but you can point the finger at a couple of other things that contributed to the strikeout rate ballooning.

Was it his O-Swing rate? Nope. Did he have a large jump in his SwStr%? Not really, just one percentage point. Did he have a sizable jump in his contact rate? Somewhat, yes, just under two percentage points. The issue is that the game’s primary pitch is giving Sanchez fits. Yes, we’re talking about the heater!

While he made improvements against non-fastballs in the zone, missing fastballs that would be called a strike is never a recipe for success. That’s a sizable jump, and could be viewed as a concerning trend, considering that its two straight seasons that that mark has increased. Now, when you look at the second graphic, even though Sanchez didn’t chase as much as previous seasons, when you miss more, you’re in trouble. It’s hard to make a living at pitches outside of the strike zone, and it looks like it did Sanchez in last year. Against offspeed pitches, his whiff rate went through the roof, and again, we see an uptick in whiffs against fastballs. This is important so listen close.

If Sanchez doesn’t improve against fastballs in 2021, he’s in a whole heap of trouble.

Unlike previous years, Sanchez doesn’t have stable job security. He’s a liability defensively, and being a solid power bat is harder to deploy in lineups when you hit below the Mendoza line. Where is Sanchez going to play if he doesn’t catch? Giancarlo Stanton is viewed as the team’s primary designated hitter, and if he flops defensively, he could be on the outside looking in. Drafting Sanchez this year is very complex and there’s a lot of variables in play that can and will affect his outcomes.

He’s being drafted as the 11th catcher off the board, just inside the top 200 picks. He’ll open the year as the team’s starting catcher, but his leash is very short. Sure, he could return to form from previous seasons, where he isn’t a negative in the batting average department, but he gives you upside in the power department for his position. He’s incredibly risky as your team’s top catcher, and if you’re forced to start two, you’re heavily relying on someone who has hit under .190 in two of the past three seasons. The sweet spot for Sanchez is as your team’s No. 2 catcher where you’re only required to start one. If he stinks again, so be it, but if he returns to form, you have yourself quite the steal.

Popular projection systems like THE BAT and Steamer have Sanchez hitting around 20-25 home runs with a batting average around .220, and if that ends up being the case, that’s an excellent return on investment in the middle-to-late rounds. However, for all of the reasons mentioned before, Sanchez is far from a lock for regular at-bats, and his defensive woes further add to the complexity of rostering Sanchez in 2021.

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