Depending on which prospect site, book, magazine, or guide you listen to the most, a player could be ranked anywhere. In Blake Swihart‘s case, he is either leading the pack for the Boston Red Sox’ list of prospects or he is a close second.
By all accounts, the kid’s a stud. We’re not talking Brad Pitt’s Moneyball speech about selling jeans, though. Be my guests, ladies and gentlemen to decide that one. We’re talking pure athletic ability. The switch-hitting catcher from Bedford, Texas has been tearing the stitches off the ball in Double-A for the Portland Sea Dogs. In 92 games, Swihart hit .300, with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs, while posting a .487 slugging percentage. The young man can crank a ball, but he also finds a way to get on base to earn a .353 on-base percentage, 23 doubles, and even stole 7 bases. Not bad for playing a position often asked to be defensive-minded.
The scouting report from SoxProspects.com states that Swihart “possesses fluid swings from both sides of the plate. Plus [his] bat speed via quick, explosive hands. [His s]wing is more compact from the left side, but needs improvement getting hands above the ball against offerings above the thighs.” High heat may be too tempting for him, which explains the 65 strikeouts in 347 at-bats; however, he has learned quickly, moving up to Triple-A with the Pawtucket Red Sox from Rookie ball in three years, and potentially could learn to lay of those pitches just as easily.
His defensive skills also have improved quickly, making an impact on the media (including BSI) to report a possible duo or conflict with current Boston Red Sox starting catcher Christian Vazquez. He has “excellent reflexes. Fluid actions. [He] moves well laterally and has quick feet … Elite makeup, strong work ethic” (soxprospects.com). Swihart caught 47% of baserunners attempting to steal with Portland and 33% in just 16 games for Pawtucket, with no passed balls for either club. His arm strength and defensive skills are still not as good as Vazquez (see bottom), but he is a force to be reckoned with soon, when you combine them with his talent at the plate.
Swihart still has much to prove, as some of his hitting averages dipped when he played for Pawtucket. Yet, in only 18 total games, he hit a home run and 9 RBIs, while trying to learn more of the defensive game at a higher level than his previous experience. That is the sign of talent, waiting for experience to catch up to turn him into something incredible. Give the young man some time and credit for his present accomplishments, because it may not be long before we see him rise to the big club and make an even bigger impact.
** For more details on Christian Vazquez and the debate versus Swihart, check out https://bosoxinjection.com/2014/12/15/red-sox-vazquez-talent-worry