The Fall Instructional League is a month long league playing in Florida each year from roughly mid-September until mid-October. This league is intended for younger prospects, who are trying to gain game experience for a variety of reasons. It could be that they were out with an injury for a good portion of the year. They might be recent draft picks who haven’t played as much due to when the entered their respective league. It is also good for teams to get the chance to look at players from other organizations with an eye toward potential trades. Team brass gets the opportunity to see some of the their own top prospects all in one place that they might not have had the chance to earlier in the season, perhaps with an eye toward who they want to keep and who they would be willing to trade.
This season the Red Sox are going to do something a little different. Christian Vazquez, the Red Sox version of St. Louis Cardinals’ catcher, defensive virtuoso Yadier Molina, played half a season in 2014 at the big league level. The Red Sox were set to have a solid tandem this season behind the plate when they signed journeyman catcher Ryan Hanigan to complement their emerging defensive prodigy Vazquez. While not up to Vazquez’ level of skill, Hanigan twice led the majors in percentage of runners thrown out stealing, his own career percentage of 37 easily outpacing the league average of 28. Vazquez had thrown out 51.7 percentage of runners (15 of 29) in his 55 games last season. This spring, disaster struck as Vazquez sustained an elbow injury requiring Tommy John ligament replacement. Hanigan sustained a broken knuckle in early May, part of the reason why the team struggled into a hole in May (10 wins, 19 losses), from which the team has not been able to rebound.
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Vazquez has begun a throwing program, but does not plan on catching in the Fall League. In this league, Vazquez will DH, to regain his timing. In 2014, Vazquez batting line was .240/.308/.309 in 201 plate appearances. His performance was up and down, .645 OPS in July, .489 OPS in August, rebounding to a .736 OPS in September. Though usually a league for younger players, the Instructional League will serve the same function for Vazquez as it does for younger players, to get game experience as a building block for next season.
After the Instructional League concludes, the Red Sox plan to continue to have him DH in the Puerto Rican league in December as well. Vazquez had some success in that league last season ranking ninth of 31 batters in batting average, posting a 288/.365/.369 batting line.
The Fall Instructional League starts its season on September 22nd running through October 13.
Stay tuned to BoSoxInjection for all the player developments as the team re-tools for the 2016 season.