Boston Red Sox: Who Will Start Behind the Plate in 2016?


After finishing last in the American League East this past season, the Boston Red Sox are going to need to closely evaluate each position in order to improve it for 2016. Some positions will have to be upgraded via trades and acquisitions, but the catcher role is a little different. The Red Sox have a handful of qualified catchers, but staying healthy was their issue in 2015.

Even though Red Sox catchers were plagued with injuries this season, they are all expected to healthy come 2016. That being said, there will likely be three players vying for the starting catcher role this upcoming season including Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart, and Ryan Hanigan. However, it is unlikely that the BoSox have all three catchers in their dugout on Opening Day. So who will earn the position?

It is unlikely that Hanigan will be the starter behind the plate in 2016 even though he proved that he could be a consistent and reliable starting catcher this season. But, he does bring veteran experience to the table, which could ultimately help youngsters Vazquez and Swihart since both have played in less than 100 games in the MLB. Additionally, with Hanigan only making $3.7 million next year, he would be a cheap yet reliable backup option to have in the dugout just in case one of the other catchers were to go down with another injury. Hanigan has earned a spot on Boston’s roster, but not the everyday starting catcher role.

The starting catcher position will definitely come down to Vazquez and Swihart. Young players like Vazquez and Swihart benefit from playing on a daily basis. This is how rookies gain experience and improve their skill. It would be detrimental to have them share the catching duties throughout the 2016 season. Thus, the Red Sox should only have one of these two young catchers start regularly next season.

Vazquez’s season ended before it started since he had to undergo Tommy John surgery at the conclusion of spring training in 2015. However, he is expected to be healthy enough to catch by next season. With Vazquez’s rookie year in 2014 being just one season earlier than Swihart’s, it is easy to compare these two. Vazquez played in less games, only 55, but he did hit 20 RBI and one home run. Vazquez’s was not as productive offensively as Swihart, but he impressed everyone with his outstanding defense and he quickly earned the respected of the coaches and pitching staff. However, a lot will hinge on how he performs after taking 2015 off to recover from his elbow surgery.

Swihart’s rookie season went pretty well despite being thrown into the starting catching position straight from Triple-A in early May without any prior experience playing at the Major League level. But, he brought a strong bat to the table and hit .274 with five homers and 31 RBI over 84 games. His defense could use some work, but it overall improved as he received more playing time behind the plate. Thus, one would hope he would continue to polish up his defensive skills as he gains more experience. If spring rolls around and Vazquez is not yet fully recovered, Swihart will get the job unless he completely flops during spring training.

However, Swihart should ultimately be the 2016 starting catcher for the Boston Red Sox even if Vazquez is ready to play. Swihart may have endured a rough entry into the MLB, but he has the most untapped potential and improved by leaps and bounds as the season progressed. Additionally, if Swihart really has the potential to be the next Buster Posey as’s Jim Callis previously stated, the BoSox cannot not give him a chance to earn the starting catcher role for next year.

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It would also benefit the Red Sox to let Vazquez complete an extended rehab assignment in Triple-A during the 2016 regular season in order to both evaluate and preserve his arm. Since Swihart could be a desirable trade target for some teams, it would be shame for Boston to trade Swihart for a top starting pitching prospect and have to rely on Vazquez only to find out that surgery diminished his overall arm strength, which was a huge part of his stellar defense.

For the Red Sox, this offseason is about rebuilding the weak areas – not trading away talented potential starting players. Swihart is currently the most promising starting catcher option with the capacity to be long term solution for this position. He should be the obvious choice to fill the starting catcher position in 2016.