Red Sox: Bold predictions that may come true in 2017
By Sean Penney
Blake Swihart will see the most at-bats among Red Sox catchers
Last season, Swihart appeared in only 19 games and received 62 at-bats, most of which came after he was moved to left field. Now he’s shifting back behind the plate where he’ll face competition from Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez, both of whom saw significantly more playing time in the big leagues last year.
Why it could happen:
He has by far the best bat of Boston’s trio of catchers. Even if you buy into Leon’s shocking breakout season, Swihart still has more upside offensively. A Red Sox lineup still adjusting from the retirement of David Ortiz may need a bit more firepower from the catcher position.
Swihart is having a fantastic spring, hitting .344 with an .838 OPS. Meanwhile, his competition is floundering. Leon is making last season’s results look like a mirage, batting .261 with a .553 OPS, while Vazquez has been even worse with a .250 average and .599 OPS.
Why it won’t happen:
If there is one position where defense matters more than what a player can provide with their bat, it’s catcher. As great as Swihart’s upside is at the plate, he’s not even close to being on the level of his competition defensively. He lost the starting catcher job after only six games last year and still has work to do to polish his skills behind the plate.
Swihart is also the only one of the three catchers with minor league options. There’s no need to carry three catchers all season and Boston won’t risk losing Leon or Vazquez by designating them for assignment. This leaves Swihart as a likely candidate to begin the year in Pawtucket, where he’ll need to wait for injury or performance issues to open a spot for him. If Leon can recapture the magic he had last season he may not give up his starting role.
Even if Leon falters, there’s a solid chance the Red Sox prioritize Vazquez’ elite pitch framing and cannon arm over Swihart’s bat.
Next: Starting pitchers to target for depth
What do you think, Red Sox Nation? Were these predictions bold enough for you or were they too outrageous? Let us know in the comments!