The Red Sox catching is thin, but looking at what they have, who can make an impact next year?
Last season, the Boston Red Sox rolled with three catchers for the majority of the season. The three were Christian Vazquez, who was extended prior to 2018, Sandy Leon, who is known for his defensive ability, and Blake Swihart, the former top prospect who is out of options.
Defensively, the unit was outstanding, but offensively, one of the worst groups in baseball. Beyond these three, it is worth looking at the depth considering the 4th option, Dan Butler, retired and is now a bullpen catcher for the Diamondbacks. It is also likely that one of these three will not be with the team next year, likely either Leon or Swihart.
In 2019, the Red Sox are projected to have two catchers. Veteran Juan Centeno, and 25 year old Austin Rei. The 29 year old Centeno has played parts of 6 seasons in the majors, posting a 63 wRC+ over 353 plate appearances. In 2018, he appeared in 10 games for the Rangers. In addition to the poor offensive output, he was also not good on defense. He accounted for -8.9 framing runs, and -2.4 blocking runs. It seems unlikely for him to make a major league appearance this year, unless both major league catchers get hurt.
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His AAA counterpart is likely going to be the younger Austin Rei. When Rei was drafted in 2015, he was known as a glove first catcher who’s bat was very questionable. His first couple minor league seasons, he was a slightly below average hitter. Last year in AA, he broke out with a 112 wRC+ in 313 plate appearances in 83 games. This encouraging season suggests that Rei has a major league future, maybe even as an everyday player. There is a chance we see him this year, possibly due to injuries or poor performance by the major league guys. He could also be a September call up, to add depth. Rei has added minor league depth to a position that really needed it.
AA and beyond:
Baldwin is a bat first catcher who was signed as an international free agent in 2013. Marrero and Cottam were 2018 draftees. Baldwin is known as a bat first catcher, with some power, but has shown some inconsistency in the minors. In 2017, he had a solid year in class A, finishing with a 126 wRC+. However, he struggled at A+ in 2018, finishing at 83. In just 100 at bats across rookie ball and A-, Marrero posted a .785 OPS. Cottam had 123 at bats in A- and A, and finished with a .668 OPS. These 3 will look to continue to move up in the coming seasons. It is highly unlikely that any of them see the majors in 2019.
Free agents and trade options:
It would make sense for the Red Sox to bring another veteran in on a minor league deal. Someone like A.J Ellis or Nick Hundley, guys who can be serviceable if needed would be ideal. The trade market on the other hand, is rather thin. The Red Sox cannot meet the asking price for J.T Realmuto, and likely do not view someone like Russell Martin as an upgrade. The one catcher on the trade market who would make sense is Francisco Cervelli, but it appears that Dave Dombrowski is content with keeping two of his three catchers.