Red Sox Off-Season Profiles: Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Blake Swihart
Boston, MA - What better time to return to reflections on the Boston Red Sox championship roster during their off-season than right after the New England Patriots held a championship parade of their own? And we arrive now at the catchers of the Red Sox.
Catchers have historically been players who are hard to get any sort of offensive help from with there being far more catchers who fit the rule than fit the standards of exceptions. For years, the Red Sox had the intelligent and could-occasionally-hit-for-power Jason Varitek behind the plate, but there's been a bit more of a revolving door since Varitek's retirement with Jared Saltalamacchia sticking around the longest. Now, the catcher position in Boston is almost a complete platoon with Christian Vazquez providing the best offense of the three (but still not great), Sandy Leon providing the best defense and being a favorite of many starting pitchers, and Blake Swihart as the change of pace.
Vazquez is notorious for hitting very few home runs, but the ones he does hit end up being game winners. He played nineteen fewer games in 2018 and hit eighty three percentage points lower in batting average and he was still the most reliable offensive threat on the Red Sox roster for behind the plate. He had just eight hits during the 2018 post-season, but every one of them seemed to be crucial for starting rallies or blowouts. His .996 fielding percentage gives him reason enough to start many games for the Red Sox.
Leon, on the other hand, was a black hole on offense this year, often going long stretches without a single appearance on the basepaths. He even had no hits in the ALDS nor the ALCS this year. But his fielding percentage even topped Vazquez's with a .999 rate and just one error with only thirteen passed balls. It's hard to overstate how important Leon is behind the plate in terms of how many runs he saves.
Lastly, Swihart appeared in just eighty-five games during 2018, including the post-season, but he still managed eighteen RBIs and fifteen walks, which are not great numbers, but they resulted in the best on-base percentage of any of the three catchers. Swihart made no errors behind the plate, but he was also slotted in at a number of positions during the year.
The catcher situation is good not great, to be sure, but it's hard not to love these three guys. The rumor right now is that either Leon or Vazquez is on the trading block because the front office believes in Swihart and wants to give him an opportunity to succeed. We'll have to wait and see how that shakes out, but I feel confident with any one of them behind the plate.