The Boston Red Sox might have a new battery for Chris Sale. Christian Vazquez has been working with him lately. What does this mean for the position?
Early this Spring it appears Christian Vazquez is working with the left-handed ace. This clearly has implications for the future. Whether those implications are big or small is up to me irresponsibly guess.
Time to make some wild accusations.
Vazquez working with Sale could be as simple as the Red Sox wanting him to work with all the pitchers. After the season he had in 2017, the 27-year-old is the clear-cut main catcher heading in 2018. With that in mind, this could be nothing more than potential battery mates getting a little more accustomed with one another. That’s boring though, right?
Vazquez is taking at least some of Leon’s workload this year. Unless both players revert back to the 2016 versions of themselves, this is a simple fact. How much he takes might not be just up to Vazquez and Leon though.
Blake Swihart seems to be returning to the mix this Spring. The Red Sox are supposedly trying him out at other positions (including second base). That should be stamped out with Eduardo Nunez returning.
If Boston wants to give him some time at first base or the corner outfield, that at least makes some sense. That way they can carry three catchers without completely wasting one. Swihart can spell others and it gives him more flexibility. He’s been a corner outfielder in the Majors before to mixed results anyways.
It’s obvious Swihart is most valuable as a catcher though. His athleticism and offensive potential plays spectacularly at catcher. At other positions those categories would be run-of-the-mill.
With that in mind, the Red Sox are hoping the finally healthy switch-hitter can return to catcher and become the player they’ve always expected.
The problem is, he’d have to take someone’s playing time. I’ll give you a hint, it won’t be the guy who set career-highs in every offensive category last season (i.e. Christian Vazquez).
That leaves Sandy Leon.
So here’s my theory.
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The Red Sox are hoping Swihart can show a return to form this Spring. If that happens, they’ll start the year with three catchers on their Opening Day roster. Vazquez will be the primary, with Leon and Swihart sprinkled in.
They’ll evaluate Swihart on a few levels from that point. Those will include his game-calling and defense, as well as his health.
Offense is important, but I truly believe the Red Sox won’t be too worried about that. Although Swihart struggled mightily last season in the minors, that had more to do with his health. He’s always been an offensive-minded player, and the Red Sox already have that scouted.
What they’ll be looking for is how his body holds out, and if he’s truly improved as a catcher. Leon is a strong game-caller and pitch framer. Meanwhile, his arm is solid enough (37% caught stealing) as well. So if Boston is going to go with Swihart, they’ll want him to not be too far behind.
After a few weeks (say when Dustin Pedroia returns), the Red Sox will probably want to return to a two-catcher system. If Swihart can prove he can handle being a Major League catcher by that point, it might be the end for Leon in Boston. Which means Sale will have to get a new personal catcher; after all that, we’ve come back to the original point.
So there it is. My theory based on nothing more than Christian Vazquez getting some February work in with Chris Sale.
Okay, you can take off the tin foil hats now.