Coming into the new year, Yankees C Gary Sanchez has the goal of proving last season was an enigma. So far, things are trending in the right direction for The Kraken.
Over the first seven games of the season, Sanchez has had his woes like the rest of these Yankees. He already has four throwing errors from behind the plate -- an area of his defensive game that was never a question. But he also made a nice snap throw down to first on Thursday to pick off the over-eager Rio Ruiz after a nice block on a slider.
Though the glove needs improvement, Yankees fans are more concerned abou Sanchez' showing more production in the batter's box this season. In 2018, he hit a ghastly .186/.291/.406 with 18 homers and 53 RBI in 89 games as he couldn't find his groove all season.
He may only be 5-for-23 (.217) to start this year, but those numbers don't give the reason why he is trending in the right direction.
First of all, Sanchez has belted three homers out of his five hits on the year, his latest a shot to center at Camden Yards on Thursday. On a two-strike count, the slugger waited on a pitch on the outside corner and belted it to the deepest part of the park. Sanchez hit his first to left against Baltimore at Yankee Stadium in Game 3, and he went yard the next day against the Tigers as he took a Tyson Ross fastball to left center.
But, I get it, so what? There are many players that are hitting home runs to start the new campaign. Sanchez, though, looks to be back to his old self in these few regular games.
Looking at his hard hit rate, it's at a whopping 55.6 percent. While that's extremely tough to maintain, his career-best was in 2017 (36.9) where he hit .278 with 33 homers and 90 RBI. Sanchez' hard-hit rate was 35.5 percent last season, which is why many believe bad luck was truly hurting his numbers.
Another telling stat is his 66.7 fly ball percentage. This is a good sight to see because he is not only hitting the ball hard, but it's going in the air. Again, that's not a sustainable number throughout a 162-game season, but having a higher fly ball rate with good exit velocities will obviously lead to more round trippers and extra-base hits off the fence.
Sanchez has seen some of that bad luck from 2018 early on, smashing a few balls right at the defense. However, chances are that bad luck won't replicate itself this season, and if he can continue to hit the ball hard, it will either find some grass or the seats.
With players like Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, and Aaron Hicks out, the Yankees would love to see Sanchez continue to hit the ball this way.