Who should be the Red Sox starting catcher in 2017? This appears to be the one starting position that’s up for grabs on the Red Sox. Going into spring training, third base was also a question mark with Pablo Sandoval being the lead candidate. He has played very well and has solidified his starting position on the team. So, who’s it going to be behind the plate? In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the three candidates.
In 2014, Vazquez was pegged as the catcher of the future for the Red Sox. He was brought up to the big club late in that season and played 55 games during the Red Sox youth movement. Vazquez hit .240 that season, but it wasn’t his bat that impressed the team. His defense stood out. He received the ball very well and he shut down the run game for opposing teams. Vazquez was going to be the Sox starter in 2015, but he ended up having Tommy John surgery in spring training which ended his season. He came back last year and was the starter for a short period of time. However, he wasn’t the same player as he was in 2014. He didn’t show the same arm strength and he struggled at the plate hitting just .227. Sandy Leon went on a tear offensively and that was the end of Vazquez as the team’s starting catcher.
Vazquez comes into this season with a full season of recovery from surgery and should now be fully healthy. His defense is elite while his bat will need to improve from where it was last season. With a pitching staff loaded with talent like this one, the most important thing from the catcher position is receiving the ball well and building confidence in the pitching staff. Vazquez is by far the best defensive catcher of the three options. At age 26, he is beginning to enter his peak years.
Going into the 2016 season, Sandy Leon was slotted to be the Pawtucket Red Sox starting catcher. He was a guy that could be plugged in if there was an injury with the big club. Going into the season, Leon had a .187 career batting average with one home run in 75 career MLB games. .187! Then Leon was called up in June. He proceeded to hit .467 in June, .355 in July, and .306 in August. The production was unheard of for ANY catcher, never mind from Sandy Leon. Then in September and the playoffs, reality set back in. He hit .213 in September and ws an automatic out in the playoffs.
So, the question is, who was this guy that was playing from June through August? Will he return to anything close to that? He hasn’t hit well this spring either. Can the Red Sox hand a job over to a guy who had two good months and has been projected to be a backup catcher at best his entire MLB career?
Swihart has been given a decent shot in the big leagues the past two years. Unfortunately, he was move to left field and got injured in the outfield. He never returned to the field last year. Regardless, he has proven that he can hit. He has hit .271 with a .714 OPS the past two season in limited action. Very good for a 22 year old catcher. Of the three options, he is CLEARLY the best hitter. However, defensively, he has a lot of work to do.
Swihart definitely projects as a full time MLB player. The question is can he handle the starting catcher’s job or do the Red Sox need to find another position for him? Despite his talent, there just doesn’t appear to be a spot for him on this team right now. He does have options, but it would be a shame to see a player of his talent in Pawtucket when he can help this team offensively. Decisions, decisions…
One of the three players won’t be on the team to start the season. It will likely be Swihart sent to Pawtucket to start the season. The question then becomes who’s the starter between Vazquez and Leon. The answer is Vazquez. He’s been pegged as the catcher of the future and deserves every opportunity to grasp it. The Red Sox shouldn’t be basing their decision off of a two month stretch from a journeyman backup catcher. And when he proves that he is what he is, they should move on quickly from Leon and call up Swihart. Have him backup Vazquez and fill him in as DH or in the outfield on occasion to use that bat in the lineup. Leon should be the odd man out. Not Swihart.
The Red Sox have two young catchers who are ready. Give them their shot.