Red Sox Thoughts: Christian Vazquez’ time is now
By Cody Collins
While overcoming a career-threatening injury, it is clear that the young Red Sox catcher has arrived. His time to shine is now.
It was just a few years ago that the Boston Red Sox anticipated a log jam at the catcher position. Top prospect, Blake Swihart, was expected to be the eventual heir to the throne, while Christian Vazquez was an after thought.
Though scouts saw Vazquez as steady, they saw star-potential in Swihart. However, here we are a few years later and one of them remains – Vazquez.
The Red Sox catcher recently garnered national attention when he drove a Cody Allen fastball that resulted in a walk-off victory. The national recognition is a new trend, as he was never rated higher than 12th in the Sox system.
His scouting report read:
"Potential to be one of the best defensive catchers in baseball who can also add enough value with his bat. Has the arm to shut down the running game. Receiving and framing will also add significant value. Gold Glove-caliber defender. Student of the game, really works hard at his craft. Potential to hit .260 with 10+ home runs a year in his peak. – SoxProspects"
This narrative had effectively told the tale throughout Vazquez’ first few seasons with the Red Sox. He hit just .240 and .227 respectively in his first two seasons. Sandy Leon then entered the picture with the Sox and emphatically won over the starting job last season.
Despite all of the adversities, Vazquez has never wavered. The emerging catcher has posted a .280 average this season with two home runs and 28 RBI, which are both career high’s. Obviously, the power numbers leave plenty to be desired; however, his offensive improvement is drastic.
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It is also worth noting that he has stolen five bases this season. Previously, he had never recorded a stolen base. This is just another small part in which Vazquez has subtlety impacted the game.
His strong throwing arm was almost compromised in 2015, when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament. Vazquez’ career ultimately became in question. With his uninspiring track record at the plate, how would he fare without his arm?
Thankfully, his arm recovered just fine, and as previously stated, his bat has come alive with authority.
The offensive improvements have certainly been impressive, but his defense remains such a critical asset. Vazquez ranks within the top ten in baseball in caught stealing percentage with 37%. These reliable throws have provided him with the opportunity to consistently impact the game.
The Red Sox are now faced with a decision that could impact the future of the organization. With the platoon of Vazquez and Leon being relatively effective, it is time for the team to commit to one or the other. Leon has since fallen back to earth after his breakout season in 2016, hitting a mere .245 after posting a .310 in the prior season.
Leon deserves to be a part of the Red Sox organization, as he handles Chris Sale very well; however the time is now for Vazquez. He is emerging as a leader on the field – providing a calming presence behind the plate and sparking the offense with his bat. Let Christian Vazquez draw the majority of starts and watch the defensive wizard go to work.