After optioning Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo to Triple-A yesterday, essentially setting the team’s outfield in the process, the Red Sox also sent Humberto Quintero down to the PawSox in a lesser-known move. In doing that, though, the Red Sox have also set their catching tandem as they will now officially use Ryan Hanigan as the starter and recently-acquired Sandy Leon as the backup.
The Red Sox acquired Leon on Monday, sending cash considerations to the Nationals in exchange for the 26-year old catcher. He hasn’t gotten much major league experience in three years in Washington, playing in just 34 games and hitting only .189/.280/.253.
Even in the minor leagues, hitting was never Leon’s calling card, though. Like Christian Vazquez, the man he is essentially replacing on the roster, Leon has an elite arm and has gunned out potential base stealers at a 45% rate in his minor league career and even 40% in the big leagues.
Between Hanigan and Leon, Boston’s strategy is clear behind the plate. The Red Sox are emphasizing defense and specifically the ability to shut down the running game, which could be essential with such an inexperienced and unknown pitching staff. Plus, such a dominant and powerful Red Sox lineup can negateÂ one mediocre bat at the bottom of the lineup.
This move is no great surprise, as the Red Sox clearly acquired Leon with the intent of using him as their backup catcher. He’ll likely be better at the plate and behind it than Quintero, a career backup catcher who has a career .234/.267/.327 slash line and only slightly above-average defense. However, the Hanigan-Leon duo might not be Boston’s catching tandem for the entire season. Leon’s presence is likely just a stopgap until top prospect Blake Swihart is major-league ready, but who knows, maybe a strong performance in limited time could earn him a more significant role even after the arrival of Swihart.