Can Red Sox trust Ryan Hanigan as starting catcher?


The December trade which brought catcher Ryan Hanigan from San Diego to Boston, with once-promising third baseman Will Middlebrooks going the other way, was hardly a significant move in an action-packed Red Sox offseason. The Red Sox needed another catcher to spell young defensive wizard Christian Vazquez behind the plate and, in Hanigan, they got a solid but unspectacular player to fill that role. But three months later, with Vazquez likely to miss extended time with an elbow injury, the Hanigan trade could have a much greater impact on the 2015 season.

With just over a week before the regular season starts for the Red Sox, Hanigan finds himself as the likely Opening Day catcher for the Red Sox, a role that has likely always been a dream for the Massachusetts native. However, Hanigan is hardly a scrub and he should be prepared to take on a starting-caliber workload for the Red Sox, at least in the early stages of the season.

"I always trained to come in to be the starting guy. That’s what I always wanted, to tell you the truth. I trained that way in the offseason, worked hard to be ready whenever my name was called.I know where all these guys are at; I know their checkpoints. I think I can benefit from the next week-and-a-half to work on sequencing of pitches … but I know what their ball does, I know how they want to pitch. I’ve been able to talk to them, give my two cents. They’ve been very receptive. There’s been good feedback. I’m excited."

More from Red Sox News

Hanigan has never been a star at the plate, but he brings with him a reputation as an excellent defensive backstop. His caught stealing numbers took a step back last season, dipping to 21% after leading the league in both 2013 (45%) and 2012 (48%) with the Reds. However, he is still regarded as a great pitch framer and has certainly made a name for himself behind the plate.

There are certainly doubts over Hanigan’s ability to play the full season as a starting catcher; he has only played over 100 games once in his career and has only been above league-average at the plate twice. With Boston’s powerful, star-studded lineup, they could hide a slash line like his 2014 numbers (.218/.318/.324, 5 home runs) in the nine-hole, though, provided that his fielding remains solid.

Plus, in an ideal world, he won’t have to be the starter over the entire season. If Hanigan can hold down the fort for two or three months, Vazquez may be healthy enough to return or the Red Sox may deem top prospect Blake Swihart ready for major league action. Hanigan has dealt with injuries in recent seasons, but as long as he is healthy, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t be a solid stopgap option behind the plate for the Red Sox. Hopefully, either Vazquez or Swihart will be ready to play by midseason, but until then, Hanigan is a reliable option behind the dish.