Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez blasted his fifth home run of the season against the A’s, matching his career high.
Christian Vazquez, power hitter. We once would have mocked the concept of the Boston Red Sox catcher as a home run threat yet he’s suddenly among the team leaders in the category.
Vazquez blasted a solo shot that soared over the Monster seats at Fenway Park during Wednesday’s win against the Oakland A’s. It was his fifth home run of the season, matching the career high he set in 2017.
Last time, it took him 99 games to set that career-high but he’s done it in only his 24th appearance of this season. Vazquez entered the season with only 10 home runs in 289 career games. He’s well on his way to surpassing that total in this season alone.
What’s gotten into Vazquez this year? The power potential has always been there, as we’ve seen him hit some skyscraping moonshots in the past. Those mammoth shots have been few and far between though.
The difference this year is that he’s making solid contact more consistently. Entering the day, Vazquez was posting a career-high 34.5 Hard Hit Percentage, per Baseball Savant. While that’s barely above league average, it’s light years ahead of his 22.2% rate in 2017, which put him in the bottom five percent of the league. He’s also producing a career-high 89.1 average exit velocity.
Vazquez has seen a steady increase in his launch angle over the last few years. A figure he was well below-average in early in his career is now at a career-high 15.1 this season (league average is 11.0). Trending toward the launch angle movement, combined with his uptick in Hard Hit% and exit velocity, explains how Vazquez has managed to record four Barrels in only 58 batted balls this season. It took him 211 batted balls to log that many Barrels last year and he’s about halfway to his career-high of 7.
None of these Statcast metrics suggest that Vazquez has suddenly morphed into one of the game’s most feared sluggers. He’s about league average, perhaps slightly above. However, “average” would be a tremendous improvement for a player who has shown very little signs of developing a power stroke.
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Any offense the Red Sox can get from their catchers would be a pleasant surprise. Former top prospect Blake Swihart was shipped off to Arizona after the team tired of botching his development, leaving them with a pair of defensive-minded catchers to split duties behind the plate. The triumphant return of Sandy Leon to the big league roster may be helping to settle down the pitching staff but we aren’t counting on him for his bat.
A breakout year at the plate could earn Vazquez the bulk of the playing time at his position. He’s not exactly tearing it up with a .227 batting average. His reluctance to draw walks has led to a putrid .278 OBP. Adding some pop to his bat could help balance out those flaws though.
We’ve seen a version of Vazquez that’s capable of delivering a solid batting line. He slashed .290/.330/.404 in 2017. Everything else we’ve seen from him throughout his career suggests that was an anomaly yet we at least know those results are within reach.
If he can add a modest amount of power to that batting average, Vazquez could emerge from a defensive specialist to a potential All-Star.