NEW YORK -- The final two months of Gary Sánchez's rookie season were better than anyone could have imagined, as the promising Yankees catcher blasted home runs in his first 51 games to equal an 86-year-old Major League record.While the historic showing propelled Sanchez into serious discussion for the American
NEW YORK -- The final two months of Gary Sánchez's rookie season were better than anyone could have imagined, as the promising Yankees catcher blasted home runs in his first 51 games to equal an 86-year-old Major League record.
While the historic showing propelled Sanchez into serious discussion for the American League Rookie of the Year Award, he ultimately finished second behind Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer, as announced Monday night on MLB Network. Indians center fielder Tyler Naquin finished third.
:: AL Rookie of the Year voting totals ::
"To me, it was very important to help my team," Sanchez said on the telecast, through an interpreter. "When I helped them win, that was my focus. I'm thankful we stayed close until the end. To me, that was the most important thing."
• AL Rookie of the Year Award winners
Sanchez received four first-place votes, 23 second-place votes and two third-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), for a total of 91 points. Fulmer received 26 first-place votes and four second-place votes for a total of 142.
Derek Jeter remains the most recent Yanks player to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, having won in 1996. Hideki Matsui finished second in 2003 and Robinson Canó finished second in '05.
Though he played in just one game before Aug. 3, the 23-year-old Sanchez quickly grabbed the Yankees' starting catcher job from veteran Brian McCann, finishing with a .299 (60-for-201) average with 12 doubles, 20 home runs and 42 RBIs in his debut campaign.
Improbably helping the Yanks remain in the postseason chase until the season's final week, Sanchez compiled a 1.032 OPS while throwing out 13 of 32 runners attempting to steal (41 percent).
Sanchez became the first player in Major League history to hit 20 or more homers while playing in fewer than 60 games, and he was also the first to hit 20 or more homers in a season without having hit one before Aug. 1.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has already anointed Sanchez as the club's starting catcher for 2017, and Sanchez credited Yanks manager Joe Girardi for allowing him to play almost every day after being called up, which he said permitted him to make the necessary adjustments.
"Since I came up to the big leagues, even before I [had] my first hit, he told me, 'Don't worry and stay calm,'" Sanchez said. "That gave me the confidence to be able to do what I did afterwards."
Despite Sanchez's abbreviated season, there was some historical precedent for his candidacy. In 1959, the Giants' Willie McCovey was unanimously named the National League's top rookie after hitting .354 with 13 home runs, 38 RBIs and a 1.085 OPS in just 52 games.
"When I came up, what I was thinking about was just getting the opportunity to play," Sanchez said. "They gave me the opportunity, I became the everyday catcher and good things have happened for me. At the same time, it has been a special time for me because of everything that has happened."
Esurance MLB Awards week concludes Friday on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8 p.m. ET with the MLB Awards. Categories include Best Major Leaguer, Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie, Executive and Manager.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.