Blake Swihart may have been the worst defensive catcher in the league last year with -16 defensive runs saved, 16 passed balls and a middling 28 percent rate of throwing out opposing base runners. Luckily defense hasn’t historically been a priority in selecting All-Star rosters, so his offense has the potential to carry him to a spot on the roster.
The 23-year old got off to a rocky start last year as he struggled to adjust to catching at the big league level, but he still finished the year fourth in the league among qualified catchers with a .712 OPS. Once he eventually settled into his role as the primary catcher for the Red Sox, Swihart began to heat up at the plate. He slashed .303/.353/.452 in the second half, which would easily make him the best hitter in the league at his position if he managed that over a full season.
The upside of Swihart’s bat is what once made him one of the most valuable prospects in the organization and we got a glimpse of that potential last year. With a year of experience under his belt he should get off to a much smoother start this season, so if he hits the way he did after the break last year then he’ll have an excellent case for a spot on the All-Star team.
Another factor working in his favor is that the catcher position is fairly shallow in the AL. Salvador Perez was a deserving starter last year due to his outstanding defense and 20+ homer pop in his bat, but the rest of the field isn’t exactly overwhelming. Russell Martin, Stephen Vogt and Brian McCann are all proven hitters, but each of them is over 31 years old, which could be an issue at a position that typically doesn’t age well due to the beating they take behind the plate.
Swihart is the brightest young talent at the position who will only continue to improve as his peers at the top begin to decline. It’s only a matter of time before Swihart winds up on an All-Star team, which could happen as soon as this year.
Next: Eduardo Rodriguez