Boston Red Sox Minors: 2019 will be the year of Austin Rei
The Boston Red Sox have plenty of prospects that the following season could be good too. Just exactly who will make it their year in 2019 though?
2018 wasn’t a great year for catchers with the Boston Red Sox. The Major League roster held three – and none of them exactly took command of the position.
Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez started the year as the Red Sox two main catchers. Meanwhile, Blake Swihart stayed with the team in a third catcher/utility-man role.
Leon and Vazquez both started the season ice-cold, quickly causing fans to call for Swihart to get some time behind the plate. That didn’t happen until injuries forced the Red Sox hand.
While Swihart was easily the best offensive player of the three, his numbers don’t exactly stand out. That could be given his sporadic play, however. Leon and Vazquez are more defensive minded catchers, although Swihart clearly improved in that area as well.
In the end, Swihart’s .229 average sadly blew the other two out of the water. Vazquez ended the year hitting .207, and Leon ended at .177.
With that in mind, this might be the least stable position the Red Sox have. No one’s spot is 100% safe and it makes you look towards the minors.
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Someone I’ve advocated heavily for in the past is Austin Rei. The same catcher who just received a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.
Rei enjoyed a second straight season of improved offensive production in 2018. In 2017, the right-handed hitter had a career-high in doubles (30) and RBI (38) as well as new career-bests in average (.223) and slugging percentage (.345).
Last season, Rei hit only 13 doubles and drove in 31 runs. However, he set new bests in nearly every other category. That included shattering his average and slugging marks with .249 and .392 respectively. He also posted a .355 OBP and hit seven home runs.
The 25-year-old has spent every season at just one level. 2015 was Short-A, while 2016 was Full-A. Then 2017 was Advanced-A, and 2018 was Double-A. This will be the year that ends. If Rei starts the year in Double-A, it won’t be for the entire season. If he starts the year in Triple-A, that means he’s officially the Red Sox emergency option should they run into a problem at the catcher position.
Rei’s shown steady improvements in both his offensive and defensive game over the last few seasons. The last two years in particular have been great to him. 2019 will be the best to date. Boston won’t keep all three catchers again – it just doesn’t make sense. Someone will have to get traded or released, and when that happens the depth at the position will shrink even more.
Even if Rei isn’t considered the “next man up” he’s getting extremely close to it. With his continuous improvements and a potential taste of the Majors – 2019 is shaping up to be a good year for Austin Rei.