A simple change in the batting order seems to have flipped the power switch on for Gary Sánchez.
Joe Girardi‘s strategy had been to bat the young catcher in the No. 2 slot in order to get him a few more plate appearances every game. A slow start, followed by a biceps injury suffered on a swing, led people to wonder whether Sanchez is capable of putting up numbers like last season.
Sánchez struck out 29 times and recorded just 22 hits batting second. As a player who mostly hits for power, he does not profile well as a tablesetting No. 2 hitter. The need for change became evident after the June 6 loss to Boston. Sanchez struck out twice, and went 0-for-5 in the game. The Yanks fell just short, and felt the need to put Aaron Hicks‘ .329 average in the No. 2 slot over Sánchez’s .248.
That move makes sense for a plethora of reasons. This year has been a rebirth for Hicks in a Yankee uniform. His attitude as a hitter has improved tremendously, as he is just five walks away from surpassing his career high of 36 in a season. Because he is swinging at better pitches, his current average is 60 points higher then his career best of .256 in 2015. Hicks clearly profiles as a player who will get on base (.425 OBP), and is a better fit for that spot the lineup.
Since the change, something is definitely clicking for the 24-year-old catcher. He is 8-for-16, and has belted three home runs in a four-game span. That’s half of the production he had in the No. 2 slot in less than 20% of the games. It really does make the Yankee lineup that much more intimidating with Sánchez batting sixth. He clearly put in the work to have better plate appearances, and it paid off to the tune of three hits and four RBIs against Baltimore last night. His average is up to .279 (.324 in June so far), and the Yankees hope he will continue to improve as the weather heats up.