Just two years ago, the Red Sox appeared to be totally stacked with minor league catching. Guys like Ryan Lavarnway, Luis Exposito, and Tim Federowicz were all expected to make major league impacts within the next few years. Well, two years have passed and only one of them is still a part of the Red Sox organization, Ryan Lavarnway, and he only .157 this past season. There’s still hope for Lavarnway to be a solid big league catcher, as many players struggle with their first experience of playing everyday in the majors. However, he expired his prospect status and thus ended the “big three” of catching prospects. The Red Sox still have a couple of guys that are decent catching prospects though, notably Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, and while they aren’t spectacular, they’re very solid prospects.
1. Blake Swihart- Swihart was the best catching prospect in the 2011 draft, and the Red Sox pounced on him with the 26th overall pick. While his first season in professional baseball wasn’t great, a .262/.307/.395 slash line with 7 home runs and 53 RBIs is far from disappointing. Those numbers are particularly impressive considering that he’s just a 20 year old catching everyday in Low-A Greenville. Swihart is very athletic and has potential to hit for average and some power as he fills out. The biggest question in Swihart’s development is whether or not he’ll remain at catcher, or move to third or second base, we’ll presumably continue to see his development next year in Salem.
2. Christian Vazquez- Vazquez is kind of like the anti-Ryan Lavarnway. While Lavarnway could always hit, but had difficulties catching, it’s exactly the opposite for Vazquez. He is rated as an excellent defensive catcher with a strong arm and great agility behind the plate. Hittingwise, he is unspectacular, as he stroked a .254/.344/.369 slash line between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. However, he struggled upon his promotion to Portland, hitting just .205 in 20 games there. Still, there’s plenty of time for the 22 year old Vazquez to sort himself out. Even if he doesn’t learn to hit like Victor Martinez, he could be a quality backup catcher simply because of his excellent defense.
Of those two prospects, who rank at #8 and #35 on SoxProspects’ list respectively, only Vazquez is really a true catcher. However, Swihart has received some praise as a smooth defensive backstop and should start at Salem next year. Also, though he’s not technically a prospect, it will be interesting to see how Lavarnway continues to develop next season; is a .250 batting average too much to ask?! It’s true that the Red Sox don’t have a blue chip catching prospect, but not many teams do, and I can see Swihart and Vazquez developing into very good players one day.