Red Sox: Realistic goals for Christian Vazquez in 2018
Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez took a huge step forward last season, showing his offensive potential. What are realistic goals that can help him reach new heights?
Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has always been known as a defensive wizard with a minor league bat. However, Vasquez squashed many questions about his bat when he posted one of the highest batting averages on the team, setting new career highs in numerous offensive categories.
Vazquez is now looking to build on the excellent season by further elevating his game at the plate. What are some realistic goals Vasquez can reach to bring his career to new heights?
A player can always improve his game, but in this case, Vazquez won’t have too much to improve on.
Out of 50 stolen base attempts, the 27-year-old sniped 21 runners (42 percent), which was good enough for fourth best in the Major League. He defended the plate in a way the Red Sox haven’t seen in years, earning a .991 fielding percentage with eight errors committed.
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While Vazquez did a terrific job of keeping runners off the base paths, he could improve his fielding. While a .991 fielding percentage is impressive, eight errors is a bit high. Sometimes, young catchers with cannon arms have a gunslinger mentality, resulting in a risk-reward style of play. Vazquez can look back at this issue from last season and improve on his decision decrease the number of ill-advised throws.
Another stat Vazquez must improve is passed balls allowed. Last season, he allowed a career-high 11 passed balls; a number that wasn’t a product of Steven Wright‘s dancing knuckleball, since his season ended very early. The 11 passed balls were tied for third worst in baseball.
These numbers aren’t concerning, but Vazquez should set goals to improve them. After all, with baseball’s power wave, the Red Sox need to prevent as many runs as possible when facing teams like the Yankees, Astros and others.
2017: 42 percent/.991 fielding percentage/eight errors/11 passed balls
2018 goal: 44 percent/.994 fielding percentage/five errors/six passed balls
These goals would allow Vazquez to reach his fielding to an elite level. Throwing out 44 percent of runners would be good enough for second in baseball while cutting down the number of passed balls from 11 to six would be ninth best.
After an encouraging step forward in his production, Vazquez is becoming a decent threat at the plate. In 2017, he posted a career-high slash line of .290/.330/.404 and a .735 OPS. He also added five home runs, showing his bat has gained pop to it. These numbers were achieved in under 100 games. Should Vazquez get the starting nod, he has the potential to achieve even higher numbers.
Vazquez didn’t set the world on fire offensively, but his improvement last year is certainly encouraging. He doesn’t need to be Buster Posey, but if he can elevate the ball more, find more gaps, and use the Green Monster effectively, he could take his offensive repertoire to new levels.
Vazquez hitting a .290 batting average is nothing to complain about, but one could argue if he hit with more lift/launch angle to his swing, his game would be well-rounded. Presently, Vazquez is limited to mainly singles.
2017: 324 at bats/18 doubles/2 triples/5 home runs/32 runs batted in/.290 batting average
2018 goal: 400 at bats/26 doubles/2 triples/10 home runs/51 runs batted in/.277 batting average
Vazquez can blossom into an elite defender with a well-rounded offensive attack. Reaching certain career milestones like 400 at bats, 25+ doubles, double digit home runs and 50+ RBI would be tremendous for the Red Sox.
Could he reach those numbers? His numbers certainly suggest so. However, we’ve seen players in baseball have mere flashes for small sample sizes before crashing back down to earth (see Sandy Leon‘s batting average as a prime example).
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Even a slight tick in Vazquez’s offense could result in more wins for Boston — something the consecutive AL East champs will need more of to compete with the powerhouse organizations of baseball.