Pete Abraham tweeted a video of Christian Vazquez throwing to all three bases from behind the plate down in Fort Myers this morning begging the question of who will get the starting nod on opening day.
It is still mildly unsure if Vazquez can actually be ready to crack the Opening Day lineup but does he deserve the decision over Blake Swihart? Swihart caught in Vazquez’s absence due to his Tommy John surgery shutting down his 2015 season.
In 84 games Swihart had 309 plate appearances and hit .274/.319/.392/.712 which is exceptional for catchers alone and even better to do it as a rookie who doesn’t wear batting gloves (like, what dude?).
In the second half alone, he hit .303 which was third-best in the Majors among catchers with over 100 at bats in that time frame.
Regardless, he wears the big catcher’s glove but doesn’t quite have the same stellar stats behind the plate like Vazquez. Swihart threw out 16 of 57 runners attempting to steal a base, good enough for a caught stealing percentage of 28%. Over 688 innings caught, he missed 16 passed balls as well.
Vazquez on the other hand threw out 52% of the 29 runners who attempted to steal a base on him and registered half the passed balls in more than 200 less innings caught (458.1 total).
When standing next to the plate as opposed to crouching behind it, Vazquez hit .240/.308/.309/.617 in 201 plate appearances.
So basically it comes down to this: if Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez were one human being we wouldn’t have this controversy.
Unfortunately only one of them can be on the lineup card and John Farrell is forced to decide which name goes there.
According to Chris Smith of Mass Live, Farrell himself said that defense is their biggest precedence in that decision. “We'll prioritize the catchers to (get) the most out of the pitching staff nightly," he said at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.
Nevertheless, two catchers are normally plenty on a baseball roster but Ryan Hannigan is also still under contract. Dave Dombrowski noted that he believes that the club will go with only a pair of catchers, thus bringing up the question of who could get traded.
Dombrowski was quoted at the Winter Meetings saying, “Now, if you discuss it in spring training, if we feel differently, like we have a better club that way, you're always open-minded to it, but normally you'd only go with two."
Obviously no moves will be made today seeing as how camp hasn’t even officially opened, despite many pitchers and catchers already moving in down in Lee County.
However, neither of the two young catchers should go, at least in my eyes. Vazquez and Swihart could split time behind the dish and at the very least have a schedule of who catches for whom this year. Let both of them get experience catching for this rotation and have one of them be the work horse next year.
Once Ortiz retires after this year, Hanley will likely take over the DH role, leaving first base open. It does create another controversy, but Swihart could play there.
Travis Shaw will likely get the nod there but Swihart is an option at the very least to go there and then Vazquez can be that dude behind the plate almost every night (and that doesn’t even need to be a conversation quite yet).
That leaves Hannigan as the odd-man out. He is an older player who brings a lot of experience and depth to the roster and is a leader-type role model in the clubhouse but you can’t give up on the futures of Vazquez and Swihart.
The outfield is set for years to come; the infield could have some changing faces but up the middle is solid for another handful of years and if one of these guys can run with this starting job and eventually lock it up, the Red Sox could be contending for many years.
With one of the best farm systems in baseball underneath all of these guys, this could be the start of something “Yuge” for years down the road. The first chapter can’t come soon enough.
Five Days Left.