After Alex Cora’s praise of Christian Vazquez, the 28-year-old seems to have emerged as the number one catcher for the Boston Red Sox.
Finally, with the Kansas City Royals looking for a defensive-minded, veteran catcher after losing Salvador Perez to injury, Sandy Leon has a likely destination if the Red Sox were to make the trade they have hinted at.
But this pecking order is far from the one represented as recently as the beginning of Spring Training.
Leon originally had the upper hand because of his experience and rapport with the starting pitchers. The 29 year-old played 89 games last year despite batting just .177 and each starting pitcher named him as their favorite catcher.
Cora and the Red Sox brass were often frustrated with Vazquez in 2018, lamenting his low .207 batting average and even criticizing him for lack of effort.
Furthermore, despite Cora’s praise of Vazquez’s work in practice and overall attitude, this approach has not translated to the plate. Vazquez has the worst offensive production of the catchers this spring, slashing .136/.136/.182, a category that Swihart leads at .333/.385/.333. Leon is second in batting average and on-base percentage, but leads in slugging percentage at .235/.381/.412.
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If we looked solely at offensive production, Leon and Swihart would likely have the upper hand, with Vazquez the odd man out. But clearly that is not the only factor for Cora and Dave Dombrowski.
Vazquez has impressed in practice, but the Red Sox brass may also be looking at his past offensive production and future potential.
Leon has career marks of just .226/.288/.338 compared to Vazquez’s .246/.296/.335. 2018 could have been a down year for Vazquez due to his pinkie injury, among other factors. After all, he slashed .290/.330/.404 in 2017 and is capable of high offensive numbers, especially for a catcher.
The interesting wrinkle is that Swihart probably has the most trade value of all three catchers. His offensive upside, team control until 2022 and low $910K salary make him the most valuable trade asset of the three backstops.
But those factors could also be just the reasons the Red Sox want to keep Swihart. The catching situation is still far from over, and the Sox might not be quite ready to deal anyone yet. However, Vazquez’s emergence as the frontrunner is certainly an interesting development.