Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has become a forgotten man

May 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (7) before the game against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (7) before the game against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

After not making much of an impact in 2016 for the Red Sox, Christian Vazquez should be back in the mix for the starting catching position.

Christian Vazquez was a forgotten man in 2016. After returning from Tommy John surgery the year prior, there were already some lofty expectations from Boston Red Sox fans that were drooling over his incredible defensive prowess. He was never expected to excel at the plate, and he continued to waiver a bit around that infamous Mendoza line last season. Then, something happened…what exactly, we don’t really know.

Sandy Leon caught fire at the plate and was needed in the lineup. Ryan Hanigan basically slid into the role as “back-up catcher” and did a serviceable job. Vazquez was relegated to bench time and another stint in Triple-A.

Rumors swirled about Vazquez’ communication with John Farrell as related to the pitching staff. CBS/WBZ’s Tony Massarotti speculated that Vazquez may have overruled a Farrell decision to stick with the knuckleball in a Steven Wright outing that led to a grand slam. No one truly knows why the team apparently decided that 2016 wasn’t going to be Vazquez’ year.

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Heading into spring training, there are plenty of questions surrounding the catching position in Boston. Can Leon duplicate his punch at the plate again, or was that just a “lightning in a bottle” type stretch? With Blake Swihart wanting the chance to catch again, is he going to once again be one of the hottest young talents on team? In fact, it seems that most of the discussion in the offseason surrounding the catching position concerns if Swihart can return back to form after coming off of injury and playing in the outfield last year. Once again, Vazquez has been forgotten.

With the addition of ace pitcher Chris Sale, Boston’s staff has become a behemoth, and the Red Sox are going to be asking a lot out of whoever is calling the game behind the plate. If listening to the skipper’s instructions were truly a problem, let’s hope that Vazquez has learned his lesson because he is the best option for the club going forward.

He is the best all-around catcher on the team, especially because his defense is miles above the other options. Plus, I know it’s not the Majors, but Vazquez has had a great winter playing in Puerto Rico. He only hit .233 in the “regular season” there (which I think Boston would gladly accept in 2017), but as’s Hunter Noll noted, “In 13 games, the defensive specialist hit .405 (17-for-42) with six walks. He also added in four doubles, two triples, 11 runs batted in and scored five more.”

I understand that a short stretch in winter ball isn’t going to solidify him as the starting catcher, but it can certainly give him some confidence and something to build on. He just needs to get a little more pop in the bat and if he can sit around .250 in the ninth spot in the lineup, the Red Sox will have their man behind the plate.

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I don’t have the confidence that Leon will be able to hit like he did in 2016. In fact, Leon had a rough stretch to finish the season and did not look like the same guy. And while Swihart clearly is a talented athlete, Vazquez is a better candidate to handle the catching duties for the foreseeable future. He was born to be a catcher. I just hope he gets the chance to show the Red Sox that he has matured and is ready to command the team behind the plate.