The starting job at catcher is the only position, aside from the final two spots in the rotation, that will have real competition during Spring Training. Sandy Leon had an impressive final line after the 2016 season, batting .310 with an .845 OPS, and 7 home runs in 35 games. He’ll be the incumbent going into camp, but his prolonged cold stretch to end the season has some doubting how legitimate his case is for the starting job. He hit just .204 with no home runs and 9 runs batted in over his final 31 games.
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Out of minor league options heading into the season, Vazquez should begin the year on the major league roster. He lost an entire season to Tommy John surgery in 2015, then had a bad season full of call-ups, starts, and stops in 2015. After losing the job to Sandy Leon in July, he played just 6 games for the Red Sox to end the season. His offensive ability remains in question, but his defense continues to earn praise from the league and teammates. David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Rick Porcello have all called him the best they’ve ever thrown to. If he can find a way to approach league-average value with his bat, his glove and throwing arm will do the rest to earn the starting position.
Of all three, Swihart has the greatest potential for two-way success. A consensus top-20 prospect as recently as 2015, he’s shown his athleticism throughout his career but has yet to display consistency at the major league level. His versatility as an athlete could also hold him back from the starting position. Given his ability to play multiple positions, Swihart could see time between catcher, left field, first base, third, and DH. What’s held him back from claiming the position thus far has been his below-average defense and pitch-calling abilities. If the Red Sox really see him as a catcher, expect Swihart to start the year at AAA to refine that part of his game.