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September 11, 2017

Remember when Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman criticized and benched Gary Sanchez for his passed-ball problems, and his teammates rushed to his rescue?

Seems like ancient history now. Sanchez still has work to do to refine his pitch-blocking; he’s also blasted 13 homers in his past 28 games, raising his total to 30 for the year, and boosting his season line to to .280/.349/.541. He’s also thrown out 36% of would-be base-stealers, well above the league average of 26%.

All of us—talent evaluators, media, fans—sometimes fixate on a player’s weaknesses, and ignore his strengths. Gary Sanchez is 24 years old. He’s a beast of a power hitter who might have 40-homer upside as he consolidates his skills. And while he’s far from perfect defensively, he’s capable enough to stick behind the plate, making his offense exponentially more valuable at a position where mashing is anything but the norm.

Aaron Judge might be the face of the Baby Bombers. But Sanchez is one hell of a second banana, and a huge reason why the Yankees are on the verge of just their second playoff berth in five years.

7. Chicago Cubs (77–66, plus-71, LT: 8)

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