Red Sox: Sandy Leon has earned a chance to stay
The Red Sox Sandy Leon has showed some hitting skills to match his defensive skills and has earned a 25-man roster spot. It won’t happen.
The good news about Boston Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon is he has the game flexibility of being a switch-hitter, but the bad news is Leon is equally inept from both sides of the plate. In 10 minor league seasons, Leon has slashed .238/.325/.330 with 24 home runs and 228 RBI for the 27-year-old native of Venezuela.
Leon was hitting .243 at Pawtucket this season and a redeeming feature is Leon does have the ability to generally put the ball in play, resulting in a MLB/Minors .294 BABIP. The career 24.5% strikeout rate in MLB and the minors clearly shows that no batting titles are in Leon’s future. The tag is simply the standard “Good field and no hit” that is attached to players more noted for their glove work.
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Leon has a noted arm that has a CS% of 45 for both minors and MLB. By all accounts Leon is a capable defensive catcher, has good game calling skills, ability to block errant throws, good footwork and can keep the fragile pitching minds on full attention status – these are skills that Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan are also noted for.
Hanigan and Vazquez have the same hitting disease that Leon has demonstrated throughout his career in that neither – especially this season – stirs confidence in late innings, the game on the line, runners on base and any of the trio is facing a closer in full nasty pitch mode.
This season Hanigan has regressed noticeably with the bat, as Hanigan’s K/9 and BB/9 percentages are at a career worst. Hanigan’s batting average has sunk significantly under the Mendoza Line and at 35 years old the warning flags are approaching hurricane status. Maybe Hanigan will retire after the season, but it appears his bat already has.
Hanigan’s real issue is Steven Wright, or Wright’s sudden emergence as a knuckleball extraordinaire. With Wright pitching, Hanigan has developed a series of sprints to the backstop to fetch a ball that has eluded him. The current passed ball total now stands at 17 and is put on hold as Hanigan recovers from a neck injury. The total could certainly have been significantly elevated as I attended one game where the generosity or sympathy of the official scorer placed three as wild pitches.
Leon’s recent hitting is certainly attention getting, but the reality is this is just a hot streak and not a sudden morphing into Mike Piazza. Leon will most certainly cool off and return to earth after his recent exploration of the hitting heavens, but does he deserve to return to Pawtucket?
In another era a team would carry three catchers and the Cubs recently choose to do that. Boston will not. The smart move is to send Leon back down I-95 until injury intervenes or September roster expansion takes place. Even with Hanigan having some noticeable erosion, his $3.7 million salary makes any movement a non-issue unless another team wishes to pick up Hanigan.
Smart move and right move are sometimes mutually exclusive and this is – at least to me – one such instance. Leon has earned a stay of Triple-A execution. Defensively, he simply looks better than Hanigan and with the bat it is a trade-off assuming Leon floats back to the .200 range.
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What is really in motion is Leon makes a strong case for being the caddy for Vazquez in 2017. Hanigan will depart as the Red Sox will give him a going away present of $800,000 team option. The simple fiscal and performance fact is that Leon presents a better option for Boston.