The Red Sox Catcher Dilemma

The Red Sox have some decisions to make in the off-season. For starters, they have to decide who they want to bring on board as an ace, if they want to bring on another ace at all. They have to decide where they want to look for bullpen help as well. One decision that has been flying under the radar a bit is—who will be their everyday catcher? Blake Swihart has performed well in 2015, but the Red Sox went into the 2015 season assuming Christian Vazquez would be their regular catcher with Sandy Leon as the backup.

Of course, Vazquez was lost for the season when he had Tommy John surgery back inRed Sox catcher April, which opened the door for Blake Swihart to get the majority of the reps at catcher this season. Swihart performed pretty well at the plate, but Red Sox pitchers had a 4.51 ERA when throwing to Swihart this season, while pitchers had a 3.71 ERA throwing to Vazquez last season in limited action at the end of last season. That takes into account the fact that the Red Sox had already traded away Lon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy.

Blake Swihart played well offensively, hitting .274 with 5 home runs in 84 games, so I would say he has a slight edge on Vazquez in that respect. Christian Vazquez has a .240 average in 55 career games and only 1 home run so far, but Vazquez has the edge defensively over Swihart.

So, who will start in 2016? It’s hard to say, but I would give the edge to the defensive-minded catcher if it came down to one of them, which is Vazquez. However, I think the best case scenario would be to have them split time. If it were me, I would start Vazquez for the majority of the games, but put Swihart in when we need a little pop in the lineup.

Another distinct possibility is one of them, most likely Swihart, gets traded to bring in an ace or bullpen help. I think Swihart will get the short straw in a possible deal because if it comes down to it, the Red Sox will choose the better defensive catcher in Vazquez, and have Ryan Hanigan and Sandy Leon as back ups. I could be wrong, but time will tell.

 

Reviewing 2014 Red Sox Rookie Position Players

red sox rookie

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.

Middlebrooks Gone, Red Sox Get Ryan Hanigan

ryan hanigan

In need of a backup catcher, the Boston Red Sox were able to kill two birds with one stone.
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First of all, Will Middlebrooks posed a bit of a problem for the club. He hit .254 in his first 169 big league games and smacked 32 home runs, making it clear that he was going to be one of the best power hitting third baseman in the game.

In 63 games in 2014, Middlebrooks hit just two home runs in 63 games with a dismal .256 OBP, putting his future with the Red Sox organization in peril.

Also, the Red Sox needed a backup catcher and were able to get one by trading Will Middlebrooks to the San Diego Padres. In return, the Boston Red Sox will obtain catcher Ryan Hanigan who the Padres will get in the Wil Myers deal when it is all said and done.ryan hanigan

Hanigan, who never has and most likely never will play in a big league game for the San Diego Padres, spent 2014 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays and hit .218 with a .318 OBP in 84 games and clipped five home runs. It was a down year for Hanigan and the Red Sox will bank on him being better than he was this past season.
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Plate discipline has always been a big part of Hanigan’s game. He has walked 220 times and struck out on just 198 in his career, showing his knowledge of the strike zone. As a result, Hanigan puts a lot of balls in play and is good for a few sacrifice hits a season.

Defensively, Hanigan has thrown out 38% of attempted base stealers in his career and lead the league gunning down 48% in 2012 and 45% in 2013.
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Typically, Hanigan serves his team as a platoon catcher, playing more than a backup but less than a starter. Expect Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez to catch at around 60%-67% of the time next season while Hanigan will see around 33%-40% of the reps if all goes well.

Now that the Red Sox have Hanigan who is signed for the next two years, trading Blake Swihart is a definite possibility. Although many people may not want to trade him, the return would be rather large and could set the Red Sox up for a championship next season.
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The 34-year-old Hanigan is a graduate of Andover High School in Andover, Massachusetts. Welcome back Ryan Hanigan, welcome back.

White Sox Sign Melky Cabrera

melky cabrera

The Chicago White Sox have been amid a highly productive off season in order to recover from a dreadful 73-89 performance last season, and it got even bigger.
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In addition to trading for Jeff Samardjiza and signing three big names in Adam LaRoche, David Robertson and Zach Duke, the team landed another big one. Agreeing to terms with outfielder Melky Cabrera, the team took this off season to a whole new level.melky cabrera

According to Brett Levine of 670 The Score, the deal is pending a physical and will total around $45 million a three year deal.
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Last season, Cabrera was highly productive as he hit .301 with a .351 OBP and clubbed 16 home runs in 139 games, making it one of his best years to date. His season ended on an right pinkie fracture he suffered after being picked off by Boston Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez.

2012 however, takes home the title of Melky Cabrera’s best year to date. In 113 games, he smacked 11 home runs and 10 triples. He hit .346 with a .390 OBP and made his sole All-Star appearance of his career but was shut down late in the season when he was suspended for 50 games for use of performance-enhancing drugs. Even though he was eligible to return to the Giants late in the post season, they decided to keep him off the roster and still gave him a ring for his contributions to the team.
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For the White Sox, the addition of Cabrera will be huge. He will most likely be the team’s starting left fielder while Adam Eaton mans center field and Dayan Viciedo will see most of his playing time in right field.
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Right now, the Chicago White Sox look like they are heading in the right direction for 2015. They have spent a great deal of money this off season, so do not be surprised if they are a highly competitive team this off season. It will be interesting to see what they have in store next.

September Showed Christian Vazquez’s Offensive Skills

Christian VazquezFor those who actually watched the Boston Red Sox play meaningless baseball in September, I salute you. You’re a rarity in this day and age, and your loyalty is inspiring. With that said, you were probably focused on the offensive emergence of Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, and on new-comer Rusney Castillo. They, in all honesty, were the men to watch in September, so it’s no surprise they were the ones you were talking about. However, there’s a Red Sox by the name of Christian Vazquez who also had himself a very solid month from the plate, but he doesn’t nearly get the recognition he deserves for it. Well, if it wasn’t already obvious, my mission in the subsequent paragraphs will be to shed light on Vazquez’s terrific final month of the 2014 season.

It is, indeed, irrefutable that Vazquez is a special talent, and his defensive aptitude is already at an elite-level. His offensive skills, on the other hand, have been his Achilles’ heel in his rookie season. Yet the Red Sox don’t mind — at least for this waste of a season — taking the trade-off, and rightfully so. Vazquez, with his 0.7 fWAR that doesn’t take into account his tremendous pitch-framing ability, pegs him as a valuable commodity even with his lackluster offensive contributions. Further, Oliver 5 Year Projection projects going forward that the right-handed hitting catcher will be worth roughly two and half wins each of the next five seasons

Now, this system isn’t perfect, but does give us a good indication on how a player will perform the next five years based on numerous factors such as his major and minor league production, as well as his age, ballpark, etc.

The point being, there’s reason to be optimistic about Vazquez even if his offense never comes. But, as I wrote three weeks back, there’s all the reason in the world to be hopeful that his bat will, in fact, come around. And wouldn’t you know it has come around this September.

Oh, yes, and in 74 plate appearances in that span the 24-year-old churned an exceptional .277/.351/.385 slash line, which resonates into an above-average 107 wRC+. His .333 BABIP in September doesn’t suggest luck has played a big role; therefore, there’s no reason to believe this won’t persist, given his minor-league track record. There’s no guarantee Vazquez becomes a decent bat, but, at the very least, he has shown he can hit in MLB.

Is This David Ross’ Last Year in a Red Sox Uniform?

David Ross

Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America

While watching the Boston Red Sox triumph over the contending Kansas City Royals 8-4 on Sunday, a thought dawned on me. Well, actually, two thoughts; one of which revolved around Ned Yost’s inexplicable decision to leave Aaron Crow in against Daniel Nava, with Kelvin Herrera right there.

But that’s a story for a different day.

Anyway, I sat there Sunday and watched as the “Blue Wolf,” more popularly known as David Ross, drew a walk in two of his four plate appearances on the afternoon. It was the first time the backstop had reached base since September 2nd. Granted, Ross only played in one other game in that time span, so he didn’t really have ample opportunities to get on base. Yet, it was a rare occurrence, as the bearded veteran only has compiled a pedestrian .264 on-base percentage this year, but it was a welcomed sight nonetheless.

Offensively, there’s nothing better to describe Ross’ two-year tenure in Beantown other than a complete disaster. In 290 plate appearances with the Red Sox, the 37-year-old compiled an abysmal .195/.274/.359 slash line to this point. Now, he didn’t have lofty offensive expectations when he joined the club during the 2012-2013 offseason, but the man does own a .753 career OPS and is a right-handed hitter in Fenway Park. That said, injuries have plagued him, notably concussions, which played a huge role in his offensive demise these last two years. Still, even with his offensive shortcomings, there’s a plausible argument to be made that Ross has, indeed, been a valuable commodity as a member of the Red Sox.

Intangibles aside, his defensive metrics have registered him a positive fWAR in each of the last two seasons despite his horrendous offensive numbers. Keep in mind those numbers don’t take into account pitch framing, something Ross does exceptionally well with. StatCorner, though, does track pitch framing, and rates Ross as the fifth-most valuable catcher, where pitch framing is concerned, in the American League, even with his limited playing time.

This speaks volumes to how important Ross really is to the Red Sox. Unfortunately, however, his contract runs out after this season, and although he said he’d like to play one more year, there’s a good chance he won’t come back next season.

Boston likely desires a left-handed complement for Christian Vazquez next year, something Ross isn’t, and with Blake Swihart knocking on the door, the outlook for a return is glum.

The humble father of two has become a fan favorite the last few seasons, representing more than just 1’s and 0’s. He’s from every indication, a great guy, teammate, and leader; something that a young team like the Red Sox could use. It’s also not as if he’s attributing negative value; no, he’s added value with his defensive talent.

The aforementioned thought was this, “it sure would be sad to see Ross leave.”

Indeed, it would.