Red Sox: Sandy Leon undervalued in preseason rankings
Matching last year’s production over a full season would be a tall task, but he proved last year that he can hit at the major league level. Some regression should be expected, but he should still remain an above-average catcher. He’ll need to be if he wants to hold off defensive wizard Christian Vazquez for the starting position, as well as Blake Swihart, who we know can hit but still needs to prove he can handle the responsibilities behind the dish.
The potential of both of those young catchers that are breathing down Leon’s neck could be another reason that many of these rankings are hesitant to place him in their top 10. He certainly has the upside to be among the best all-around catchers in the game, but any prolonged slump could open the door for someone else to take the job from him.
Abandoning the experiment of moving Swihart to the outfield may partially be due to Andrew Benintendi‘s emergence taking away a potential starting spot, while moving back to the catcher position also boosts his trade value. Fairly or not, the decision will also be viewed as the Red Sox lacking confidence in Leon’s long-term viability as the starting catcher.
Leon’s outstanding performance last year earned him the opportunity to open this season as the starting catcher. The Red Sox may have caught lighting in a bottle last year, but Leon will at least get the chance to prove that he can sustain some semblance of that production.
His bat probably won’t catch fire the way it did last summer, but hitting .270 with 30 doubles, 15 homers an OPS above .750 seems like a reasonable projection. Combine that with his solid defense and you have a player that should be worth about at least 2.5 WAR, which easily puts him in the conversation for the top 10 catchers in baseball.
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Will Leon keep the starting catcher job through the entire 2017 season or was last year an aberration? Let us know what you think in the comments!