Red Sox catcher: Christian Vazquez
Christian Vazquez has always been one of my personal favorites. What’s not to love about a stocky, 5-foot-7 catcher who pimps 350-foot home runs? Vazquez has been a staple of the Red Sox since the 2014 season, a key part of the 2018 championship team, and a tremendous leader of an ever-changing pitching staff.
That’s what makes what I’m about to say quite difficult: There’s a good chance this will be Vazquez’s last season in Boston. Vazquez has typically been one of the league’s weakest hitters, but he took it to a new low in 2021. His average exit velocity dropped three points from his career-best 2019 season, while his hard-hit percentage dropped nine points. The result was a weighted on-base percentage that ranked in the fourth percentile of major league hitters, per Baseball Savant.
Vazquez’s surface-level numbers are serviceable enough for a catcher, especially in this day and age, but the underlying metrics show he benefited from some luck. Vazquez’s .301 BABIP is around league average, but given how softly he hits the ball and the fact that he runs about as fast as an elderly turtle, that number should have been a lot lower. His expected batting average was 23 points lower than his actual average, while his expected slugging was 15 points lower.
Vazquez’s anemic bat would be a lot easier to swallow if he was still one of the best defenders in the game, but his play behind the plate has taken a step back as well. Vazquez’s defense is still well above average, but it is not nearly what it was in his prime, as his defensive runs saved has dropped from 20.8 in 2019 to 7.2 last season. With his glove slipping from other-worldly to merely good, there’s more pressure than ever on his feeble offense.
As Vazquez turns 31 this summer, there is little hope that his game will return to its prior levels. As difficult as it may be to say, it could be time for the Red Sox to start looking for a new catcher.
Stat Prediction: .242/.293/330, 5 HR, 37 RBI, -0.1 WAR