Christian Vazquez: Defensive Superstar in the Making

As soon as I saw the Spring Training video of Christian Vazquez shooting down Trevor Plouffe attempting to steal second base, I knew he was special, (the video is titled ‘Vazquez throws out Plouffe’ and can be found on MLB.com). They don’t just hand out the nickname “Little Yadi” to anyone. Vazquez emerged as the potential catcher of the future just a few years ago. Now, he is 26 years old, and we are still waiting to see if he can get the starting job behind the plate.

Ever since Vazquez reached the Major Leagues in 2014, it’s been clear that he struggles Christian Vazquezin the batter’s box. Vazquez has a career .233 batting-average in just 347 at-bats. Vazquez has showed signs though, as he crushed a home run over the Monster against Yankees RP Dellin Betances last year. Betances is one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball, and the fact that Vazquez could hold his own against him and go yard attests to his hitting ability. He simply gets overwhelmed at times against big league pitching.

Christian Vazquez vs. Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon emerged last season as the everyday catcher for Boston. He found success in our lineup, producing a .310 average. Leon only made one error behind the plate last year, and threw out 42% of potential base runners. Most Sox fans will see these numbers and immediately see Sandy Leon as the starter this year too, but not so fast.

Leon was one of the streakiest hitters on the team last year. He was the best hitter on the team at times, while at other times he couldn’t make contact. When he wasn’t hitting well, he was basically a liability. Not to mention, Sandy Leon was absolutely awful in the playoffs. He went 1-10 with 5 K’s against Cleveland in the divisional series. I have not seen enough consistent production from Leon to tag him with the Opening Day start this year; I’m also not John Farrell.

The Case for Vazquez

Christian Vazquez has the most raw talent in the Red Sox catching core. He can take over a game from behind the plate with his framing, and his blocking is advanced beyond his competition. Vazquez is a defensive beast, and it is very apparent when watching him work behind the plate in-game. He is the glue that holds the Red Sox defense together. Blake Swihart has shown an inability to improve upon his receiving thus far, and some say he has caught a case of the yips this spring. Sandy Leon has been a hit or miss in all aspects of his game. Who does this leave? Christian Vazquez, (or Mini Yadi).

Vazquez is dedicated to his craft. He is ready for the challenge that awaits him. We’re talking about a guy who is not only compared to Yadier Molina, but works out with him and his brothers in the offseason. Don’t forget, Molina is only a career .285 hitter. Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon have been inconsistent producers at catcher. Don’t get me wrong, Leon belongs in the lineup against lefties. John Farrell has already come out and said that Hanley Ramirez will DH against righties this year. Does this mean that against lefties we will see Leon DH, and Vazquez behind the plate? Sure, he still needs to improve his hitting. Once he does, there is no question as to who will be catching every day in Boston.

Matt Barnes Stretching His Arm Back Out

Matt Barnes
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Pitching two scoreless innings for the Boston Red Sox in relief on April 25th, the effects of the big league club renting PawSox starting pitcher Matt Barnes still linger.

En route to the big league club’s 5-4 loss against the Baltimore Orioles that Saturday, Barnes allowed two hits and struck out one. Closer Koji Uehara gave up a solo shot in thematt barnes tenth, taking home the loss in a heart breaker.

On Friday, Barnes had his first start since April 19th and gave the PawSox four sharp innings on a strict 75-80 pitch limit.

In the first inning, he gave up a solo home run, but it was the sole blemish on a rather productive outing. He went four innings and gave up one run on four hits while striking out seven. In all, PawSox pitching fanned 13 batters in the loss. Barnes got a no-decision for his efforts.
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“It was fine,” Barnes said of his arm following the outing. “It’s just one of those things where you have to dial it back up a bit, but it feels good.”

So far this season Barnes has not been able to throw a full outing for Pawtucket. Before being called up to Boston, Barnes was working on getting his arm back up to par after fighting for a spot in the bullpen this spring. His efforts were unsuccessful, although he fanned 18 hitters in 13 innings.

Manager Kevin Boles is pleased with the way Barnes is pitching, but he held off in giving a time and date as to when he would be pitching a full outing without any limits.
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“We’ll see about that,” he said. “We shortened up his pitch count since he threw two innings in the big leagues. We’re going to do right and build him up over time. Again, it’s a quality arm and the versatility he shows starting and relieving is impressive.”

Which Pitchers Will Make their Red Sox Debut in 2015?

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With Spring Training rolling around the corner, fans will have an opportunity to get a glimpse at some new, young talent; a look at some guys who could potentially make an impact on the Boston Red Sox this year. Of course, there will be the same young players who could impact the team, but there are even younger, even newer players to keep an eye out for.
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In terms of pitching, the Red Sox top three pitching prospects are all set to start off the 2015 season as members of the Paw Sox rotation. Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez are all left-handed starting pitchers who were dominant in their time with the Red Sox organization last year.
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red soxTo the surprise of many, Henry Owens is not a power pitcher despite standing tall at 6ft7. He is more of a finesse guy and the power pitchers of the bunch being Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson who occasionally top out at 97 MPH and 95 MPH respectively. Right now, Owens and Rodriguez are on the 40-man roster but if Johnson pitches up to his ability, there is no reason why he should not get the call.

Although no new relievers are on the 40-man roster right now, things could soon change. Slated to start off the 2015 season in Pawtucket are two relievers who could end up helping the big league club if they make their MLB debuts this season— 2011 fourth round draft pick Noe Ramirez and Cuban defector Dalier Hinojosa.
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Ramirez spent most of his year last year in AA Portland where he posted a 2.14 ERA in 42 outings totaling 67.1 innings. Hinojosa on the other hand, was a Paw Sox reliever the entire season and despite struggling early, he turned his year around by posting a 1.57 ERA in his final 23 innings of work.

Working in their favor is the fact that they can be stretched out and give a team multiple innings in relief. Working against them is that neither of them are on the 40-man roster— yet.
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Reviewing 2014 Red Sox Rookie Position Players

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After an abysmal 2014 season, the Boston Red Sox look to turn things around in 2015. Five rookie position players saw a good chunk of playing time last year for Boston, which is why it is worth taking a look to see why underdogs can thrive as well.
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The two big time prospects headed into the season were Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., neither of whom produced nearly was well as expected. While Bogaerts hit well at times and played adequate defense at shortstop, his bat went missing in action during the summer months as he hit just .157 in 248 at-bats from June through August.

Jackie Bradley Jr. on the other hand, was excellent defensively but failed to pull his weight at red sox rookiethe plate, posting the lowest OPS among all qualifying outfielders in Major League Baseball. Defensively though, he was another story—but Boston still went ahead and signed Cuban defector Rusney Castillo to fill the void in center field.

Younger players who the Red Sox were not expecting as much from ended up being the ones who gave them more production.
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Very few people would have thought Christian Vazquez would be the Red Sox starting catcher headed into the 2015 season, but that is the case. He hit .254 with a .312 OBP off of righties last season while gunning down 52% of the runners who tried to steal off of him in 54 games—not bad for a rookie catcher.

Drilling his way into the lineup by playing every single position except for the batteries, Brock Holt etched his way into the big league picture by doing everything that was asked of him and then some. Although he hit .281 with four homers and 12 stolen bases in 106 games last year, he would not be coming into the 2015 season projected to be the utility man if it weren’t for his versatility.
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Who could forget about Mookie Betts? Switching from second base to the outfield, the top prospect was originally not expected to make his big league debut until 2015, but his consistent bat earned him playing time for Boston. Showing off power, speed and plate discipline, he has the right stuff which is why he is projected to post the highest WAR on the team this year.

Defense First For Red Sox Catcher Christian Vazquez

vazquezIn the field in baseball, defense is important however, it is not as important as hitting. Hitting is what gives a player pride; it’s what makes David Ortiz so great and makes the difference between a lifelong Minor League player and a lifelong Major League player.

Fielding is important, depending on the position. As a catcher,for example, defense is quite important and sometimes it can even outweigh a player’s dismal performance at the plate. Gunning down attempted base stealers, calling the game, and catching every single ball thrown are responsibilities of a catcher. This job is important and can effect the outcome of a ball game.
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For Boston Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez defense is his specialty. His bat lags behind as he is slashing .225/.287/.275 while posting a dismal .561 OPS in 102 at-bats. Not only this, but Vazquez is two for his last 17 and is on pace to finish this season hitting below the Mendoza Line (.200).

Behind the dish it is a completely different story for Vazquez—gunning down nine of 20 would-be base stealers good for 45% caught stealing. As a game caller, he is advanced for a 24-year-old and is one of the top defensive catchers in the game.
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No, he is not the fourth Molina brother, but he works out with them in the winter in Puerto Rico and is just as good defensively.

Next year, it is assumed Vazquez will be seeing the lion’s share of playing time at catcher for the Red Sox — even if it is in a platoon. Boston is willing to take the good with the bad and will let Vazquez continue to catch for them despite his obvious flaws. To meet the standards of being the starting catcher, Vazquez will need to keep playing his tremendous defense and get his OBP up to a number which starts with a three.

No, he is not the next Ivan Rodriguez, but Vazquez could be just as good defensively while he lacks the bat of the future Hall of Famer.
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With the anticipated emergence of Blake Swihart, Vazquez will have competition in the future. Still though, Vazquez is here to stay and may find himself in a platoon with Swihart by around the halfway mark next year. All would need to go well for Swihart for that to occur while Vazquez must keep his average above the Mendoza Line.

As always, defense comes first for Christian Vazquez. It is the reason why he is the starting catcher of a big league club and it is the reason why he is getting paid. No matter what else happens next year, Boston will be sound at catcher as long as Christian Vazquez stays healthy.

Mookie Betts Keeps Playing, Earns Call Up

Photo credit: Ken Jancef Photography

Photo credit: Ken Jancef Photography

Only 21-years-old, the top prospect in the Boston Red Sox system with ten games experience in the bigs, expectations could not be higher for Mookie Betts. He fared well in his tenure in Boston hitting a slash line of .235/.278/.382, but was optioned back down when Shane Victorino returned from the disabled-list a couple weeks back. After a while in Pawutcket, he is back up with the big league club.
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It is fair to say Betts does it all. He is a true five-tool player who has a bright future ahead of him in the game. Even he realizes that he is a great all around player. Right now, he is trying to become a better five-tool guy.

“No, not necessarily just one — I’m just continuing to work on everything,” he said when asked if he was working on anything in particular.

Of course being the number one prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization is a prestigious honor. To Mookie though, the whole notion of ranking prospects is just a number.

“I started off at number 40 somewhere-just continue to play whether I am number one or number 50. I got to play no matter what.”  All along he has been playing in the Boston Red Sox organization, even back when nobody knew who he was. Now, the only difference is he gets the recognition he deserved all along.
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Not affected by rankings and other people’s opinions, or the demotion he recieved, Betts keeps his head high and keeps playing. Owning a slash line of .321/.408/.496 in 34 games for Pawtucket while clubbing five homers and swiping eight bags, Betts looks like the type of guy who should be in the big leagues right now. Not only on offense, but on defense as well. He plays all outfield positions well and has yet to boot a ball in 26 games for the Paw Sox. Next time, Betts feels as though he is more prepared for the call-up based of what he learned.

“Um yeah, I mean [I learned] how the game is, how to go about your business, that type of thing,” said Betts who stayed positive about the whole situation.

Boston has plenty of outfield depth especially with the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespades and Allen Craig. Still, Betts is the most talented prospect the Red Sox have in their possession and arguably one of the best in all of baseball.
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Called up a day after the trade deadline, it is clear he is a big part of the Red Sox future. Even if he is a nomad on defense with no definite home, it would benefit everyone if he saw consistent playing time at the big league level next year.