Spring training is the time to evaluate what you have at a given position and see where you are going in the future. Some position options are more robust than others.
For the Red Sox, catcher is suddenly one of those positions. And it is an unexpected occurrence.
It all stems from the sudden emergence of 22-year old prospect Christian Vazquez during this camp. He is now seen as a future option at catcher because of his outstanding defensive makeup.
His release time from crouch to throwing has been timed at less than two seconds, which is considered outstanding. It is because of this, and a few flashes at the plate, that he has now thrust himself into the discussion as a future Fenway catching option.
The Red Sox seem pretty set at the position for this season. It looks like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross will share the job out of the gate with Ross playing more than just once or twice a week because of his bat, defense and potential at handling the pitching staff.
But John Farrell also needs to find at-bats for Ryan Lavarnway, who has proven all he can in the minor leagues. I’ve suggested the team make him the full time DH while David Ortiz is sidelined to solve this quandary but it does not appear they will go that route.
The team saw Salty hit 25 homers last year in 448 at-bats so they are intrigued by all the power despite the low on-base percentage. It is obvious they signed Ross to be a key part of this team and that leaves Lavarnway stuck waiting in the wings.
Now the emergence of Vazquez has suddenly given the team some new options, and they are good ones. Here’s one way I could see things unfolding:
The Red Sox proceed with the Salty-Ross tandem to start the year and hope Salty hits for power like he did last year. If he does, and Lavarnway winds up in Pawtucket (which now seems likely) and mashes, the Sox can then move Salty at the July trade deadline for something good and promote Lavarnway. I think this is likely because I don’t see the Sox bringing back Salty next season, barring a monster season from him.
Then they can finish out the season with a Lavarnway-Ross tandem and go into spring next year with a competition between Lavarnway and Vazquez to pair with Ross and trade the loser of the competition for another piece.
Is this a perfect world scenario? Yes. Do these things always work out perfectly? No.
But right now the Sox have too much supply and limited demand at a position that is important to every major league team, so why not dream?
They also would have two of a very rare commodity in baseball, a power hitting catcher, if Lavarnway develops like the Sox still hope he will.
It is a great problem to have and the Sox must maximize these potential riches to their advantage. Vazquez’s emergence now gives them that flexibility and opportunity.
So the question is what would you do with four catchers and only two spots if you are Red Sox management?
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