Jamie Gatlin | July 5th, 2019
Entering this season Christian Vazquez was not expected to be an offensive force. Like the Red Sox season however that has not gone as planned. Through Vazquez’s first four years in the majors, he only hit above .250 once. The Red Sox backstop had never driven in more than 35 runs in a season or hit more than five home runs. With the season at the halfway point, Vaquez has not only excelled offensively but been a force with the bat.
Coming into 2019 Vazquez was coming off a down year offensively. In 269 at-bats the former ninth-round pick batted .207 after batting .290 the year before. After driving in a career-high thirty-two runs, he drove in just sixteen. In every offensive category, Vazquez took significant steps backward. In the first half, however, he has not only surpassed expectations but silenced his critics.
With the All-Star break less than a week away Vazquez has already posted career highs in runs batted in with thirty-six and home runs with thirteen. He is also on pace to set career highs in hits, runs, and doubles. His offensive surge has made it hard for manager Alex Cora to keep him out of the lineup. He has turned a position that was a dark hole in the lineup for Boston into a strength.
Additionally, Vazquez has been above average defensively. In sixty-three games, he has only committed one error and turned four double plays. He also caught thirteen runners stealing which matches his total from last season. Vazquez has shown off his versatility as he has appeared at four different positions. Although he has always excelled defensively, this season Vazquez has been just as good if not better.
As the Red Sox have struggled this season Vazquez’s breakout campaign has been a pleasant surprise. Last year the Red Sox catchers were one of the worst offensively. That, however, did not impact them on their march to a championship, as the Red Sox had one of the deepest lineups in baseball. The offense has again been of baseballs best, but Vaquez has been far from an automatic out.
Furthermore, Vazquez is on pace to join elite company. Since 2010 Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Victor Martinez are the only Red Sox catchers to reach the twenty home run mark. Going back further, it has only happened four times since 2000 as Jason Varitek did it twice. It is particularly impressive considering entering the season Vazquez only had ten career home runs.
Although there is a lot of baseball yet to be played, the Puerto Rican native is becoming one of the games most underrated talents. On a team full of offensive weapons, he has been one of Boston’s best. His value is also reflected in his WAR which is the highest among AL catchers. In the offseason, the defensive standout worked hard to improve at the plate. The results have paid off and translated into a season that he may never forget.
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