Over the last 60 games of the 2016 regular season, fans and writers were fawning over Gary Sanchez. The Yankee catcher represented a change in how the Yankees constructed their roster. Gone seem the days were the lineup was crowded with overpaid aging veterans looking to win another championship. The future will now be paved by, much like the rest of the league, a new guard consisting of younger players, whose prime years will form the basis for a new dynasty.
Sanchez quickly took over as the starting catcher and was a regular in the Yankees lineup when not squatting behind the plate. At the end of his second stint, he produced 2.6 WARP while batting 299/.376/.657, becoming a favorite – and deserving – candidate to win Rookie of the Year.
Still, Sanchez does not represent the ends of the new methodology. On the contrary, he is only the first of a string of prospects ready to break into the league. Thanks to savvy, well-timed trades, Brian Cashman has managed to take one of the worst ranked farm systems and turn it into one of the most enviable. The minors was – and still is – plagued with would be contributors to the future of the Yankees dynasty bid (i.e. Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier).
At 6’7″ , the herculean Aaron Judge has captivated just as many fans as Sanchez did the previous year, providing even more hope that the Yankees rebuild is well-ahead of schedule. Over his first 53 games of the season, Judge ranked first in home runs, fourth in slugging percentage and eighth in true average, all while producing 2.7 WARP. Over the same number of games in 2016, Sanchez ranked seventh in home runs, first in slugging, and eighth in true average. The question is: Who of these two players had a better rookie start? The caveat being, of course, that we are still talking about small sample sizes.
Judging only by WARP, Judge has a barely visible lead. But what if we take their individual stats?
Well, the stats are split. Sanchez had more PA and AB over the same span of games, hit more doubles and home runs, and had a lower strikeout percentage. Judge, on the other hand, has more triples, a better slash line, and walks more. Sure, Judge has the better rate stats (sans for K%) but looking at their WARP, we can’t really say that one was better than the other. In a sense, they balance out.
The difference between them is that Judge seems to be a more hyped player; though this could be to Sanchez’s injury and sophomore slump. Nevertheless, over his first 53 games, Judge has been just as good as Sanchez was, and could wind up being even better. If this is the case, then Cashman would have caught lightning in a bottle twice – something that he may be able to do even more times if the rest of the farm system develops like them.
Nobody expected the Yankees to compete in 2017 but with two young, powerful players anchoring the lineup, and the promise of more talent on the way, the Yankees could very well win it all this year. Furthermore, by quickly embracing a young-player philosophy – and succeeding at a more rapid pace than other teams in the league – the Yankees are set to recreate its dynasty years.