Since Christian Vazquez returned from the disabled list, the Red Sox have gone from strength to strength.While no team is flawless, it is incredibly refreshing to finally see this team winning more games than it loses in any given stretch. And although the improvement cannot be solely attributed to the young catcher, he has been a major part of this team’s recent success, which is really fun to watch.
Obviously, Christian Vazquez is renowned for his defensive abilities. The man from Puerto Rico is an elite pitch framer, which will help get more borderline calls for a pitching staff that can really use them. Moreover, Vazquez has a fantastic arm, and is capable of shutting down a running game entirely. He also calls a brilliant game with an assertive manner behind the plate. He isn’t afraid to bark at his pitchers, and frequently gets animated when demanding better mechanics or control from even established veterans. There is a fire to Christian Vazquez that fans truly appreciate. This guy wants to win just as much as anybody, which is huge for a Red Sox team seeking a new culture.
Vazquez established his defensive reputation in 2014, before missing last season due to Tommy John Surgery. However, we’re even beginning to see encouraging signs of life in his bat. Against the Yankees recently, Christian launched a huge home run over the Green Monster off the imposing Dellin Betances. It was just the second long ball of his big league career, and it gave the Red Sox a very important lead. We shouldn’t expect great things from Christian Vazquez at the plate, and this lineup can certainly carry such a strong defensive player, but improvement is definitely being made, and I believe he can be a serviceable hitter at this level. Vazquez knows the game really well, so that should definitely help him in the box.
Christian Vazquez, the Fourth Molina Brother
It’s well known that Vazquez shares a special friendship with the legendary Molina brothers, especially Cardinals stalwart Yadier. In fact, when watching Christian call a game and block pitches in the dirt with sneaky athleticism, the similarities to Yadier are pretty strong. That is a huge compliment, because Molina is one of the very best defensive catchers I have ever seen.
In recent seasons, Yadier has also improved massively as a hitter. He was a .252 career hitter through 2007, and averaged just 6 home runs and 38 RBI per season. But in the last nine years, Molina has hit .298 and topped out at 22 home runs and 80 RBI. As his career has progressed, Yadier has learned more about the game and naturally become a better hitter. In turn, the Cardinals have moved him up in the batting order, to the point where he is an integral cog of their offensive machine.
It would be unfair to expect such a trajectory from Christian Vazquez, but there is certainly cause for optimism about him becoming a complete force behind the plate for many years to come in Boston.
The Blake Swihart Conundrum
Right now, Vazquez seems to have the catching position locked down. His impact on team morale and performance has been exceptional, and the 25-year old looks set to join Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. in forming the Red Sox’ new young core. Naturally, that doesn’t bode well for Blake Swihart, the other catching prospect Boston has at its disposal.
After struggling out of the gate, Swihart is currently in Pawtucket, working on his below average defense and playing some left field. In this age of advanced analytics, with increased emphasis on catcher defense, it’s difficult to ever see Swihart usurping Christian Vazquez behind the plate, while prized prospect Andrew Benintendi figures to challenge hard for the left field job in a few years.
Therefore, Swihart may suddenly be expendable. It would be difficult to give up on that bat, which has huge upside, but the Red Sox are playing really well at this point, and one more elite starting pitcher could make this a World Series caliber team. If Swihart is the trade chip that brings another ace to Boston, then perhaps Dave Dombrowski should bite the bullet. After all, he will be safe in the knowledge that, with Christian Vazquez, the Red Sox will have an elite catcher for the foreseeable future.