25 in 25: Ryan Hanigan
After a rough 2013 season, Ryan Hanigan left the Cincinnati Reds, the organization with whom he had been a member since 2002, and signed a 3 year/$10.75M contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. Offense has never been Hanigan’s calling card, as he owns a career .256/.353/.341 slash line and he didn’t improve upon that last season, posting a .218/.318/.324 line in 84 games for the Rays. However, he has made a major league living through excellent defense and reaching base at a passable rate.
Unfortunately, his success in both of those categories dropped off a bit last season. His .318 on-base percentage, while an improvement over his .306 mark in 2013, was the second-lowest of his career. Plus, defensively, Hanigan also slipped for the first time in his career as his 21% caught stealing rate was the lowest of his career and the first time he had caught potential runners at below the league-average rate (which was 27% last season).
On the bright side, however, the Red Sox aren’t counting on Hanigan to start for them. And while Hanigan’s numbers have significantly tailed off over the last two seasons, he’s still firmly in the upper echelon of backup catchers.
Hanigan’s road to Boston was a circuitous one, as the Rays dealt him to San Diego as a part of the Wil Myers trade and then the Padres traded him to the Red Sox within a week in exchange for Will Middlebrooks. Hanigan fills a needed role for the Red Sox, though, being a defensive-minded backup catcher who has spent eight seasons in the major leagues and can mentor up-and-comer Christian Vazquez about life in the big leagues.
There’s also a chance that Hanigan could consistently find himself in the lineup against left-handed pitchers, against whom he has posted a .764 OPS in his career (versus .674 when facing right-handers), in some sort of a platoon with Vazquez. Still, he won’t have a major role with the team as the exciting Vazquez will receive the lion’s share of the playing time. Plus, if Blake Swihart excels in Pawtucket, then the Red Sox shouldn’t hesitate to make Hanigan expendable. Assuming that the Red Sox bring Swihart along slowly, however, expect Hanigan to serve as a solid backup catcher with good defense behind the plate that can reach base at a decent rate.