Red Sox First Half Report Card by Position: Catcher

Red Sox first half catchers

With maybe the Red Sox’ biggest free agency signing of last offseason gone in A.J. Pierzynski, the team has caught a good glimpse of who may be their future catcher—Christian Vazquez. Pierzynski replaced Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who posted solid numbers last season which included a slash line of .273/.338/.466. The most hated player in the league just wasn’t putting up the numbers that would warrant him staying with the team though. With just 15 extra base hits and nine walks through 72 games, the “offensive” catcher may have trouble finding a new job elsewhere.

David Ross isn’t quite doing his job as well as last year either. Base stealers have been successful 74% of the time, up from 59% last year. While we don’t expect much at the plate from him, his .176 average needs to improve a bit. With all this being said, it is clear that he has a connection with some of the pitchers on the team, including the ace, Jon Lester.

Ross isn’t the only catcher on the team that knows how to call a game anymore though.

If there wasn’t anyone waiting in the wings, the Sox may have had to stick out the rest of the season with Pierzynski. Luckily, Christian Vazquez appears as if he is ready to play in the big leagues. He has already shown his quickness behind the plate, making some confident snap throws down to first, which is something that not all rookies would do in their first few games. At the plate, he’s gone 5-11 in his first three games, with three doubles and five RBIs. He wasn’t brought up for his bat, but the 23-year-old hit .289 in Portland last season and was hitting .279 in Pawtucket at the time of his call-up. It would be great if Vazquez could provide similar numbers in the majors, which I don’t think any Sox fan would complain about.

A.J. Pierzynski- Grade: D

David Ross- Grade: C

Christian Vazquez: Incomplete (A so far)

Is It Time To Let David Ross Go?

David RossRight now, Boston Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has been taking a lot of criticism for no reason. The Red Sox starting catcher is hitting .257 with a .288 OBP in 64 games for Boston clipping four homers. In the field, he has gunned down just 20% of runners which is below the league average. Still, Pierzynski is the best catcher on the Boston Red Sox roster and gets starts almost too often. His backup, David Ross on the other hand, is not having a good season. The slightly younger 37-year-old catcher is hitting just .176 in 27 games while smacking four homers and posting a dismal .235 OBP. Defense, which was once the specialty of David Ross, is now his Achilles heel. Throwing out just 23% of runners despite being well rested when he goes behind the plate is not what Boston is looking for at the moment. If the Red Sox want to improve, they will need a better catcher than what they have.
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Luckily for the Boston Red Sox, there is a solution. His name is Christian Vazquez and he is the starting catcher for the Pawtucket Red Sox. At 23-years-young the catcher is 14 years younger than both David Ross and A.J. Pierzynski. On the year, Vazquez is hitting .275 for the Pawtucket Red Sox posting a .331 OBP while clipping 19 extra base hits. Although this does not sound impressive, what Vazquez does behind the plate is impressive. Calling a great game and gunning down 39% of would-be base stealers, Christian Vazquez is the breath of fresh air the big league club is looking for right now. He could split time with A.J. Pierzynski, giving Pierzynski a break allowing him to be physically ready to catch when the time comes.

The reason why Boston needs to let David Ross go is simple: value. At this point it is clear that David Ross is not having a good season and he cannot catch on an everyday basis. He would be worth keeping if Pierzynski had trade value, but no teams are looking for an old mediocre catcher. Granted that neither catcher would yield any return in the trade market, Boston would be best to cut ties with their backup catcher: David Ross. This would clear a spot on the 40-man roster as well which would allow Boston to call up a player they currently do not have access to if need be.
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Overall, the choice is clear. Despite being the more popular of the two catchers, it is time that the Boston Red Sox part ways with David Ross. He had a solid career, but it is time for him to throw in the towel. Giving Christian Vazquez a shot in the big league could pay dividends to the team in 2015. Since Boston will be looking for two new catchers in 2015, Vazquez could potentially be one of those men with a convincing performance this year.

Why the Boston Red Sox Need to Call Up Christian Vazquez

christian vazquezSo far this season, the Boston Red Sox are not receiving sufficient production from their catching core. Their catchers combined are hitting .247 with a .286 OBP. Starting catcher AJ Pierzynski is doing just fine hitting .282 with a .315 OBP along with four home runs in 47 games. On defense, Pierzynski has caught 29% of attempted base stealers which is slightly above the league average. David Ross on the other hand is really struggling. In 19 games on the season Ross is batting just .167 with a .225 OBP. Defense used to be Ross’ strong point, but now he is struggling. So far this season Ross has gunned down just 19% of would-be base stealers which is far below the league average. Not to mention the .984 fielding percentage Ross owns, which is again not good. With this being said, Boston might want to look elsewhere for a sufficient backup catcher. The man they are looking for is none other than Pawtucket Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez.
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Vazquez, 23, is having a solid year for the Pawtucket Red Sox. In 42 games he is hitting .269 with a .318 OBP along with 12 doubles. As of late, Vazquez’ bat is improving as he has hit .308 in his last ten games. It is worth noting that Vazquez fares much better against righties at the plate than he does lefties. Against lefties Ross is batting just .220 with a .291 OBP compared to his .291 average and .331 OBP against right-handed pitching.

Keep in mind, defense is his strong suit. In 31 games behind the plate for Pawtucket, Vazquez has thrown out 38% of would-be base runners and is boasting a .993 fielding percentage. In Spring Training this year, manager John Farrell said he believed that Christian Vazquez was already Major League ready on defense.

Right now, David Ross is not contributing to the Boston Red Sox. Other than calling a solid game behind the plate and being a veteran leader on the team, Ross provides nothing for the Red Sox. Boston already has enough veteran presence in the clubhouse, and could use wins more than another veteran. Since numbers never lie, to put it into sabermetrics, David Ross’ WAR is -0.3. Keep in mind, if Ross played more that number would be even lower.
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The Boston Red Sox record is 27-31 putting them in fourth place. They need to do whatever it takes to make their team better and if that means calling up Christian Vazquez than so be it. In 2013 when David Ross was out for most of the season, Boston fared just fine with Ryan Lavarnway playing a scarce backup catching duty. Obviously, Boston feels more comfortable with Vazquez behind the plate than Lavarnway though, and Vazquez would likely receive as much playing time as Ross gets now. On defense, Vazquez would make an immediate impact likely fielding just as well as AJ Pierzynski, though offense might be a struggle. To put it this way, Vazquez should be able to outperform David Ross at the plate to say the least.

To recap, the Red Sox are going to use Christian Vazquez sooner or later, so it would be in their best interest to make it sooner rather than later. The sooner Christian Vazquez gets his shot in the big leagues, the better especially with the way David Ross has been playing this season.

David Ross’ Long Path to a World Championship

David Ross

The Red Sox made a number of key transactions prior to the 2013 season. Shane Victornio, Ryan Dempster, and Joel Hanrahan were among the high profile off-season signings. The most underrated sign however was journeymen catcher David Ross.

Many didn’t expect a player that had been with six different teams to be an integral part of the 2013 Red Sox, but Ross was. It has been a long journey for the 13-year veteran.

The Los Angeles Dodgers selected Ross in the 7th round of the 1998 amateur draft out of the University of Florida. He signed and made his major league debut on June 28, 2002. He was with the Dodgers’ organization until 2004.

In 2005, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Diego Padres. He would only play in a combined 51 games for both teams.

Ross’ big break came in 2006 when was traded from the Padres, to the Cincinnati Reds. In 90 games, Ross would hit .255 with 21 home runs and 52 RBIs. He was the Reds starting catcher until he was designated for assignment in 2008. The Red Sox later signed him to a minor-league contract for the rest of the 2008 season.

From 2009-2012, Ross was the backup catcher for the Atlanta Braves. He often played when the Braves wanted more of a defensive catcher behind the plate.

Ross signed a two-year, $6.2 million deal to return to the Red Sox in 2013. He had previously played for the club back in 2008.

Ross missed 65 games for the Red Sox during the 2013 regular season because he suffered two concussions throughout the season. Some thought he would never play again, but Ross would return just in time for Boston’s Championship run.

Red Sox Manager John Farrell benched starting catcher Jerrod Saltalamacchia after Boston lost games two and three of the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Saltalamacchia made key errors in both losses and was struggling at the plate as he struck out 19 times in 32 postseason at-bats.

Ross started the rest of the series and was a veteran presence behind the plate. He was an offensive factor in the World Series as well. In Game five, he had two hits and drove in the go-ahead run to win the game 3-1.

Ross is a career .237 hitter, but you can’t measure the importance of what Ross does behind the plate in statistics. The defense, leadership and his veteran presence are intangibles you won’t find on any stat sheet. It’s a good thing the Red Sox know how valuable Ross is to their team.

Red Sox Believe in Their Future At the Catcher Position

catcher position

Some people might have been puzzled when the Boston Red Sox decided to replace 28-year-old catcher Jerrod Saltalamacchia with 37-year-old A.J. Pierzynski. The signing of Pierzynski just shows that the Red Sox are confident in their young prospects at catcher.

The Red Sox held their annual rookie program during the week of January 14  and Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, two of their highly touted catching prospects were in attendance.

The more experienced Vazquez had a good season in the minor in 2013. The 23-year-old from Puerto Rico has been named the best defensive catcher in the Red Sox system by Baseball America each of the past three seasons. In 2013, Vazquez led the Portland Sea Dogs with a .289 average and was the starting catcher for the Eastern League All-Stars.

Vazquez also threw out 47 percent of attempted base stealers with Double-A Portland last season before being promoted to the Pawtucket Red Sox last fall. Vazquez was invited to Fort Myers again this spring and he will have a chance to work with veteran catchers Pierzynski and David Ross.

Swihart, who was selected by the Red Sox with the 26th overall pick in the 2011 draft, has played three seasons in the Red Sox farm system. He represented the Salem Red Sox on the Carolina League mid-season All-Star team last season as he hit .298 with two home runs and 42 RBIs in 103 games. In the fall, Swihart was also named the 2013 Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year.

Swihart will also be in Fort Myers, Fla., as he was also chosen to participate in to spring training. This is excellent considering Swihart didn’t start playing the catcher position until his junior year of high school.

Ross and Pierzynski will both be free agents after the 2014 season. It is not farfetched to think that we may see Swihart or Vasquez play at Fenway Park in 2015. Keep your eye out on these two catches because the Red Sox organization surely has.