The Vazquez of Years Past:
One of the men behind the dish for the Boston Red Sox, Christian Vazquez, has had his fair share of trouble in the majors for the Red Sox, but as we have seen with players in the past, that can change in an instant.
Vazquez has been sitting in the Red Sox farm system since he was just 17 years old in 2008. He has been depicted as a smart catcher, great game manager, wizard of framing pitches and overall five star chef behind the plate as he has climbed the ranks of the farm system. His eventual rise to the major leagues has been a long time coming and it seems as though he has reached his opportunity to prove his worth. In other words, at the age of 26, it is now or never.
Vazquez was first given his grand opportunity during the 2014 season when the hype of his promotion became eminent as the Red Sox catchers situation proved to be bleak. He was given the opportunity to play in 55 games through the season. This was our true first look at the young man with the rifle for an arm that we were all told about. And two things became clear. Defensively he was a rock star. He was the true captain of the ship and handled his promotion with great poise and professionalism. He being so young, you would expect the catcher, or in game manager, to show slight intimidation. But he did not. He showed that he was there and that he was ready to compete. He was not afraid to put his arm on display either as he gunned down 15 of the 29 base runners who attempted to steal on him.
But the second clear picture that was painted was that he struggled with the bat in his hand. That season alone he hit .240. But in his defense it was just his first season in the majors so there was time for him to grow into an adequate hitter. And I say adequate because truthfully with his defensive skillset, adequate is all you should really ask for out of him. What he can do as a catcher defensively is much more valuable. Fun fact; you can give a heavy amount of credit to the legendary Yadier Molina who was his defensive mentor.
But because of the short sample size that we fans received out of him in 2014, we were excited to see what he could produce in 2015 with the expectancy that he would be the starting catcher over the young Blake Swihart who lacked in the defensive department, but exceled offensively.
Sadly the Red Sox lost Vazquez through the 2015 season as he learned during Spring Training that his season would be cut off due to his need of Tommy John surgery.
As 2016 rolled along, the Sox expected Vazquez back with the major league ball club come late April to early May. Vazquez eventually did return and was stellar in his first game back causing Sox fans excitement to escalate to new heights. He began his season with a multi-hit performance, something eye opening because of his previous lack of offensive ability, and a pick off throw to first base from home plate. He was excellent all the way around.
As the season wore on however, we began to see the same Vazquez detriments that we had known in 2014. And honestly, even a little worse. His arm strength was still slightly diminished from his previous year’s injury, his game calling abilities were beginning to be questioned as pitchers were performing at low levels under his command, and his offense was simply atrocious.
Vazquez was officially sent down to Pawtucket and was replaced with 28 year old Sandy Leon who had the best offensive season he had ever had, and ever will have.
Offensively, Vazquez finished off the year in Boston with a .227 batting average and a .270 batting average in triple-A Pawtucket.
This Coming Season:
The 2017 season is one that Christian Vazquez needs to prove his worth in. Being that there are two other catchers in the system that could handle the job adequately, at this point it is going to be his job to lose.
Currently I am reading that Sandy Leon is going to begin the season as the catcher, and rightfully so. Leon had an outstanding season last year and finished off with a .310 batting average that at one point was .400. But if the Red Sox think like I do, which they probably don’t, but should, you cannot trust Leon to be your every day catcher for the long term.
Leon has been in the same boat as Vazquez is, but the expectations for him were never nearly as high. Leon has always been known as a catcher with a strong defensive skillset. But, just like Vazquez, the offense was just never really there. But now that is seemed to blossom last season, mixed with his defensive skills, he just makes sense to be your catcher as the year begins. Plus, something worth noting, the pitchers on staff last season really seemed to jive with Leon.
However, I do see them making an attempt at wiggling Vazquez in as the starter to get him acclimated to that role. And if he succeeds then he will take over as your full time catcher. Even if his bat is 10 points worse than Leon, I still believe they give that job to Vazquez because again, he is the guy they have been grooming to take over that spot and will become the first glimmer of regularity at that position since Jason Varitek.
However, if his bat once again becomes a liability then they need to go with the hot hand.
This season the piece of his game that you need to look out for is his offensive production early on in the year. I say this because with another year under his belt and an offseason to regain arm strength, I guarantee that his arm is back to normal and is a rocket once again and his game managing skills won’t be as rusty. So if he can produce even a .260 average then God bless Vazquez because he is your Boston Red Sox starting catcher. But once again, if his average dips to the point where it becomes a hole in the lineup, then don’t be surprised if he rides the pine.
And another side note, Vazquez does not have any more options left to go to Pawtucket. So they either play him, keep him as the back up, or trade him. Those are your options, Red Sox.
Now I’ll leave you with this question. If both Leon and Vazquez’s bats go so far south that they are in the metaphoric Antarctic, do they take a chance on starting Blake Swihart?
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