Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has been in the majors since 2014, and at age 29 he’s showing the potential to be one of Boston’s greats behind the plate.
This past season didn’t bring much joy to Red Sox Nation, especially after the amazing story that was the 2018 season. One thing that did go well for the team was the behind the plate play of Christian Vazquez. The catcher finally emerged from the pack and evolved into one of the best backstops in the game today.
Vazquez made his debut with the Red Sox back in 2014 but it wasn’t until 2018 that he would begin to separate himself from the pack. As part of a three-headed catching unit, he would share the workload with Sandy Leon. However, ahead of the 2019 season, Boston would make some moves that would seal Vazqy as the lead man and he’d have one hell of a breakout season.
Last season Vazquez saw a surge in his offense that finally compared to what he brings to the Red Sox defensively. He posted a .276/.320/.477/.798 line with 23 homers and 72 RBI, all were career leading numbers except his AVG (.290) and OBP (.330) which were just below his previous bests. For me, the home run total is what got me excited for what Christian could do down the road.
Until 2019, he had just ten dingers for his entire career, TEN. The fact that he mashed more than twice his career total in a single season was awesome and proof that hard work pays off. If he can continue working on his offense then he can become a pillar for the Red Sox when they’re at the dish.
With this all said, I wanted to look through Red Sox history and compare him to some of the other catchers that Boston has had over the years. I kept everything steady as I focused solely on the 23-29 age range since that is Vazqy’s sample size to this point. Some may disagree with that method but considering it’s my experiment, I make the rules!
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Carlton Fisk is the king of the mountain for that data set. In second was Rich Gedman who played in more games than Fisk in that time frame, but couldn’t topple his stats. Finally, in third place comes Vazquez, which was eye-catching to me. There have been some seriously great players to sit behind the plate for Boston and so far he’s eclipsing them.
Here’s the breakdown of the Top 3:
Carlton Fisk: .286/.361/.490/114 HR/376 RBI/28.5 WAR
Rich Gedman: .259/.314/.420/74 HR/303 RBI/13.2 WAR
Christian Vazquez: .256/.305/.384/33 HR/152 RBI/9.0 WAR
Interestingly enough longtime Boston catcher and immense fan-favorite Jason Varitek barely made it into the Top-10 at #8 on the list. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Rick Ferrell round out the Top-5 of the best catchers for the age range we’re looking at. This is about Vazquez though so let’s get back to shining some light onto “Mini Yadi.”
Now that the offense is beginning to turn around and he’s becoming more of a threat at the plate, let’s look at the sweet sweet defense of his. Though he’s primarily a catcher and that’s where I think everyone in Red Sox Nation wants him to play, he also subbed in at first, second, and third in 2019.
That versatility could prove incredibly valuable for Ron Roenicke in whatever this 2020 season is going to be. I doubt the veteran manager would want to remove his star catcher from his perch but desperate times call for desperate measures. If the season gets away from the Sox I could see Roenicke moving Vazqy over to first on occasion to give his backups more reps or even call upon the recently acquired Connor Wong as he’s Boston’s top catching prospect.
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Vazqy allowed 36 stolen bases last year while catching 22 before they made it safely to their next destination. This gave him a caught stealing percentage of 38% which was well above the league average of 27%. Pretty damn impressive if you ask me. His .999 Fld% behind the dish was the best of his career while he also posted a .982 at first, and 1.000% at second and third. Over the last few years, I’ve definitely gotten behind him more and more as I was originally a big Leon guy. But through his hard work on both sides of the ball, he’s won me over and now I’m ride-or-die with Vazqy.
Now that the catcher drama in Boston is well behind him, at least his portion of it that is. There will be a battle for the backup spot between Kevin Plawecki and Jonathan Lucroy, but neither will threaten the king of the catching mountain. I highly doubt the Red Sox will create another dilemma with their catching corps so don’t expect to see another trio behind the plate in 2020.
For now, Vazquez is safe as the man calling the pitches and rightfully so. He’s worked hard and has improved with each season that he’s played in. Add in the boost of confidence he surely received for his monster 2019 campaign and he can continue to ascend that mountain of legendary Red Sox catchers. Hopefully, we continue to see that progress and Christian Vazquez is a name that goes down in Boston sports lore.