Red Sox Spring Training Preview: Confusion Behind the Plateby Sam Connon February 21, 2018 0 comments
Spring Training is here, and the Red Sox have sent out their invites. Over the next couple weeks, I’ll take a look at every position and who Alex Cora and Dave Dombrowski are bringing down to Fort Myers. Today, we’ll take a look at catcher.
Having issues behind the plate is a common problem for plenty of teams around the league, and it’s nothing new for the Red Sox either.
Since Jason Varitek in 2008, the Red Sox haven’t had an All-Star or even a de facto starting catcher. While Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a few impressive stretches, he was never seen as a vital part of the starting lineup.
Now, Boston comes into 2018 with the same platoon as they had in 2017, comprised of Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez.
Leon is more of a veteran and only caught 64 complete games last season. His .310 batting average in 2016 was proven to be a bit of an anomaly, but his 2.7 WAR that season was certainly impressive and proved that he could be a significant role player for the Sox.
Vazquez really emerged last season with a solid .290 batting average and continued success behind the plate. However, his lack of power is concerning, and his batting average prior to last season had never topped .240. He is a good option to rotate into the lineup every now and then, but he isn’t going to shoot up the lineup anytime soon.
The Sox also have Blake Swihart as an option at catcher. He came up through the minors as one of the most hyped catching prospects and played 86 games at the position in a successful rookie year in 2015.
However, former manager John Farrell elected to try out Swihart in the outfield, and after a freak injury has barely played in the majors since. While he has hinted at playing first base or more outfield, Swihart is a true catcher and has only succeeded as a hitter when he has been at his natural position.
Going forward, it’s up to Alex Cora and Dave Dombrowski to decide what to do with Swihart, but I think that tossing him into equation behind the plate, at the very least in Spring Training, would be the best thing to do with him. Considering no catcher on the roster is going to be that great, I think that having a three-catcher platoon of Leon, Vazquez, and Swihart would be interesting.
The non-roster invitees include Dan Butler, who is a 31-year-old who hasn’t seen the majors since 2014, Oscar Hernandez, who has a .167 career batting average in the big leagues, and Austin Rei, a prospect who isn’t even in the top 60 on SoxProspects.com. None of them will make any noise this season, and I can’t see any of them succeeding in the majors at all.
Roldani Baldwin is the only other catcher in the farm system who is ranked by SoxProspects.com, and he is an international prospect just weeks away from his 22nd birthday. He had seen moderate success in his first three years in the minors, but he enjoyed a breakout season for the Greenville Drive with 14 home runs, a .274 batting average, and an amazing .800 OPS.
While I’m not saying he should make the roster, I do think he would be a much more interesting addition to the Spring Training roster than Butler or Hernandez.