Boston Red Sox: Biggest disappointments of 2016 season
Blake Swihart / Christian Vazquez
The Red Sox entered the season with a problem most teams would be envious to have – two young catchers with tremendous upside vying for a starting role. With Swihart’s bat and Vazquez’ defensive skills, the Red Sox were supposed to have one of the league’s best backstop tandems.
Only it didn’t quite work out that way. Vazquez started the season in Triple-A Pawtucket to allow him additional time to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. That left Swihart as the Opening Day catcher, but it wouldn’t take long for him to lose his grasp on the role.
Swihart got off to a respectable start at the plate, hitting .278 in April, but it took a mere six games for the Red Sox to realize that his work behind the plate needed more polishing. He was shipped to Pawtucket, where we expected he would refine his catching skills. Instead, his time in the minors was primarily used as an opportunity to transition him to the outfield.
He returned to the big leagues in May and actually seemed to be taking to his new position quite well, until an unfortunate run in with the left field wall at Fenway Park resulted in a season-ending ankle injury.
Missing the bulk of the season with an injury isn’t what is most disappointing about his season though. The Red Sox seem to have given up on Swihart being a viable option at the catcher position. His bat profiled as a potential star if he were to remain at catcher, but seems merely average in left field.
Andrew Benintendi‘s arrival means that spot is no longer available when Swihart returns, putting his future with the team in question. Boston could consider trading him, but admitting he can’t cut it as a catcher shattered the trade value of a prospect that was once rumored to be worth headlining a package for an ace starter. Unless the Red Sox open a spot for him by trading someone else, Swihart may end up toiling away in Pawtucket for a while.
As for Vazquez, he never produced enough with his bat to stick around at the big league level. He hit a mere .227 with a .585 OPS in 57 games with the Red Sox, while spending most of the year in Pawtucket.
The Red Sox remain high on Vazquez’s future based on his game-calling, pitch framing and strong throwing arm to curtail the opponent’s running game, but he needs to prove he can hit at least a little bit in order for him to reach his potential. With Sandy Leon having a breakout season, it may be a struggle for Vazquez to reclaim the starting role he was once destined for.