Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero (l.) and LatinoBaseball.com founder Ralph Paniagua (r.) present the 2017 LatinoBaseball Player of the Year award to Gary Sanchez at Yankee Stadium.
By Robert Dominguez
It’s still early, but it’s sure looking like the New York Yankees’ long tradition of excellence behind the plate will continue for another baseball generation.
Catcher Gary Sanchez followed up his amazing rookie year in 2016 — 20 home runs in just 53 games after an early August call-up, to go with a .299 average and a rocket for an arm — with a stellar 2017 campaign that earned him the honor of being named LatinoBaseball.com’s Player of the Year.
Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero and LatinoBaseball.com founder Ralph Paniagua presented Sanchez with a plaque designed by artist Gianna Paniagua at a pre-game ceremony in Yankee Stadium on Sept. 27.
The 24-year-old Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native easily became the Yankees’ No. 1 catcher in 2017 and showed what he could do over a full season. He blasted 33 homers — most of them tape-measure bombs — along with 90 RBI and a .278 average in 122 games while continuing to prove he has the strongest throwing arm in the game.
His homer total broke the Yankees record for a catcher, 30, shared by Yogi Berra and Jorge Posada, and had fans hoping Sanchez would be the latest link in the power-hitting catcher chain stretching from the 1930s: Bill Dickey to Berra to Elston Howard to Thurman Munson to Posada.
Sanchez, who won a Silver Slugger Award in 2017 as the best-hitting catcher in the AL, also helped lead the Yankees to a thrilling, seven-game ALCS against the Houston Astros they eventually lost — though the bulky backstop became a vital member of the team’s young core of budding “Baby Bomber” stars that include right fielder Aaron Judge and pitcher Luis Severino.
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.”