Red Sox: Christian Vazquez is now the best backstop in the American League
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox have a gem at catcher with Christan Vazquez. Vazquez’s fine season may have him advancing in the ranks of great Red Sox catchers.
Red Sox management was safely ensconced within a corporate cone of silence on July 31st as the trade winds blew elsewhere. Disappointment? Frustration? Anger? The expected emotional response from within Red Sox Nation, but there are still positives and this certainly is one.
Catchers have a physical appearance that is easy to determine from fellow teammates and Christian Vazquez certainly fits the traditional mold. At 5’9” and 200 pounds the terms stocky and blocky can apply. And you could apply a financial bargain based on what return the Red Sox are getting on Vazquez’s $13.3 MM three-year extension. First off with Vazquez is defense before getting into his offense.
Defensively there is certainly something known as debatable responsibility. That would apply to certain statistics such as the traditional with passed balls (PB), caught stealing (CS) and wild pitches (WP) to metrics such as pitch framing and catchers earned run average (CERA).
Somewhere in the blender of responsibility is pinning the blame or defensive finger-pointing. From my view when you get pegged as “A young Molina” after the great Yadier Molina it speaks of your defensive prowess.
Last season the Red Sox catching crew was somewhere below awful with a 0.3 fWAR finish among the American League backstops. Defensively you had one story and offensively another with the drab being offense and defense being the glitter.
The .202 batting average of 2018 has been replaced with a .259 for 2019 and that is with Sandy Leon hitting .207. The team fWAR is now 3.0 with Vazquez’s contribution being a league-best 2.8 fWAR.
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The Vazquez that showed up this season was the same one that hit .290 in 2017, but with far more power. The home runs are flying out all over baseball and Vazquez now has 16 compared to his career total of 10 at the start of the season.
In 2018 Vazquez hit just .207 – a significant drop – now the average in back along with power and at this point Vazquez just may be the best catcher in the American League especially with Salvador Perez out for the season and Gary Sanchez doing his fold.
Vazquez’s bat has allowed him to take the occasional turn at designated hitter on days of supposed rest. Vaz has also taken a turn at first base, second base, and third base. Manager Alex Cora has not been managerial shy about putting Vazquez elsewhere on the diamond when faced with a lineup pinch.
The future – meaning 2020 – should show if Vazquez is legitimate as a hitter for average and power. Was 2018 an anomaly or was 2017 and possibly 2019? What is known is Vazquez can now favorably be compared to Jason Varitek and no longer Sammy White who I thought career he would emulate.