Jun 25, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart (23) hits an RBI single during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Choice A: Option Swihart to Pawtucket, roll with Hanigan and Leon.
Given Swihart’s struggles in May, it’s clear that he was rushed to the major leagues (which we pretty much knew at the time anyway). Sure, Swihart hit .338/.392/.382 with the PawSox, tearing the International League apart in 18 games. However, most prospect evaluators suggest that it’s a good idea to let a talented player struggle and then adjust and rebound from those struggles before promoting them. Swihart clearly didn’t learn everything that he could in Triple-A and it showed in his first taste of the majors.
But on the flip side, what Swihart didn’t learn in Pawtucket this season, he’s likely learned in Boston by now. He has steadily improved as the season has gone along and is currently playing about as well as one could expect from a 23-year old, switch-hitting catcher in his first season.
In a perfect world, the Red Sox could continue to play Swihart nearly everyday in the majors to let him soak up all of the knowledge that should help him become an elite catcher in the future. However, that’s simply not possible with Hanigan returning. Hanigan has served as a backup catcher in the past and it’s not out of the question for him to play that role this season (it’s what the Red Sox brought him in to do after all), but he’s a high-end backup and will command much more playing time than Leon.
Some would argue that this could stunt Swihart’s development and that it would be better to option him to Pawtucket, where he can play as much as physically possible. Swihart can get a bit more experience and polish off his skill set with the PawSox and he’ll likely come back better for it. Another benefit of this option is that it would allow the Red Sox to preserve depth by keeping Leon around rather than exposing him to waivers.