The Red Sox have a hole in the ninth place in the batting order which has in the early going become the preferred position for who is catching – either Ryan Hanigan or Sandy Leon. Neither has brought back the offensive memories of Jason Varitek, Carlton Fisk or perennial backup Bob Montgomery. Never too early to panic.
A view of Fangraphs, shows Boston sitting in the 10th position offensively and ninth defensively. Both are very small samples. The one statistical strength that pops out is they lead the league with a BB% that sits on twenty. This is the result of Hanigan, who in the early going has eight walks against eight strikeouts, which displays nothing new as Hanigan has more career walks than strikeouts.
Sandy Leon simply never hit in the majors. A .193 career average who was ready to be designated for assignment. Leon, like Hanigan, has some capable defensive skills and, like Hanigan, is simply one relegated to non-starter duty thanks to his hitting.
Christian Vazquez, down and out for 2015, also had a big question mark attached to his offensive game. The defense certainly was exceptional, but that hitting. Vazquez slashed .240/.308/.309 in 2014 and did, at least to this observer, show some ability to put up some tough at bats. As they would say in scouting circles “He plays within his game,” or to us on the outside looking in Vazquez simply gets the best out of what he has.
The Red Sox were willing to accept the dent in the lineup that Vazquez presented. If a .240 was repeated – fine, so be it, we have added some more punch with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. How that has changed in the early going.
The Red Sox are currently sitting ninth in the AL in hitting and that is far more productive than 2014, but has not really started to roll. Absorbing poor production in one position is potentially a liability.
So where do the Red Sox find some catching assistance? The obvious is to look inward and that means down I-95 Pawtucket way.
The heir apparent – anointed by various evaluators and trade requests is Blake Swihart. The game plan for the Red Sox was to nurture Swihart defensively and offensively until the need was necessary. If the big club needed some more punch a (hopefully) seasoned Swihart would be ready.
Behind door number two at Pawtucket is veteran Humberto Quintero who is 35-years-old and a career long backup catcher. Backup means you do not have either the offensive or defensive ability to play the position for a possible 120-130 games a year. Quintero in his 12 MLB seasons has slashed .234/.267/.327.
Early in the 2015 PawSox season both Swihart and Quintero have split the chores and both are hitting. Swihart is slashing .389/.472/.389 and Quintero is at .348/.607/.348 – both on games through 4/20. Exceptional hitting except for one statistical quirk that jumps out – OBP. In the early going neither has walked.
The early going does not mean panic, but it requires attention. The team will continue to make the best out of the tandem they have until the current trend dissipates or remains the same. Remains the same, you just may see Swihart in Boston earlier than expected. You may also see Quintero replacing Leon as a first move.
*** Statistics from Fangraphs and Baseball-reference though 4/20.
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