The Behind-The-Plate Debate

It’s a question that has confronted the Red Sox front office since both players reached the highest levels of the minors. Christian Vázquez, 25, and Blake Swihart, 24. Who is the catcher you move forward with?

I’m going to throw my two cents in, and my two cents are with Vázquez. It’s well documented how he’s a defensive wizard, while Swihart’s strength lies in the box. This is truly a great problem for Boston to have, but at some point, you have to have a direction. Otherwise, your prospects aren’t prospects anymore and you lose value. It happened with Brandon Moss, it happened with Ryan Lavarnway, and it happened with Lars Anderson – they’re guys that didn’t necessarily translate well with the Red Sox despite the fact that they were highly regarded, they waited too long to make them a regular part of the major league ballclub, and they moved them for less than what they could’ve.

I’m not suggesting that Swihart is going to be a bust. I’m just saying that his bat is why he’s been highly regarded. Supposedly, he’s a plus hitter on both sides of the plate. I don’t consider .270-ish to be a ‘plus prospect’, especially if you are average to above-average defensively speaking. At this point, in Pawtucket, he’s not helping the Red Sox win now, which is the position that they’ve put themselves in.

Vázquez has hit 39 points less than Swihart in 129 less at-bats. He has 4 less home runs. There’s definitely a drop off offensively speaking, but when you consider that Vázquez is literally already a top-five defensive backstop in the MLB right now, coupled with the fact that he is exceptional at calling a veteran staff with only 64 career games, I see the advantage with #7. He’s a leader, he’s respected, and I think he’s trusted more than Swihart is.

I could be very wrong – Swihart might become the next perennial All-Star, while Vázquez might never consistently hit above the Mendoza line. But the only think that Vázquez has to do is hit between .200 and .250 for his value to be equal, if not greater, to Swihart’s. He makes the Red Sox better today, and he will make the Red Sox better moving forward. It’s Vázquez that brings the Sox the best mix of win this season and win moving forward. I don’t think that, at least as a catcher, Swihart has done that. I’d explore moving Swihart for a pitcher that can help Boston win this year, or maybe explore transitioning him to first base so Hanley Ramirez (who has SHOCKED me defensively thus far, much better than I could’ve anticipated, hats off to him and how hard he’s worked) can move to DH.

But enough about my opinion, I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong just as much, if not more, than most. Red Sox fans, baseball fans, what do you think? Vázquez or Swihart? Would you rather have an exceptional defensive or offensive catcher? Comment below or on FanTalk, I’m curious what you guys think.

Cover Photo from MassLive

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Tim the first says:

    Can we get a third option? I’m so tired of hearing how well Vazquez frames a pitch, oh excuse me “presents the pitch”. Most umps know what they’re going to call as it crosses the plate. Obviously a good catcher can help a staff (see J Tek) but the guy can’t hit his weight. Give me Blake.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. TJ Tullis says:

    I would build around Blake, hands down. Especially seeing how far he’s come since picking up catching once the Red Sox converted him. Defensively, Swihart is no scrub and still definitely is above average in his own right. Swihart was a shortstop throughout high school and was made into a catcher thanks to his athleticism and the same exact transition happened with Buster Posey. Posey was a shortstop recruit for Florida State and once the Seminoles recruited another shortstop and needed another catcher, he moved behind the dish and I’d say things worked out. Sure Vazquez is great with a pitching staff and one of the elite pitch framers (which can lead to as much as 10 extra wins over the course of an entire season, see Russell Martin’s advanced statistics) but Blake has done a great job through the minors so far with his catching and chemistry. Once the new wave of starters reaches the majors for good, guys like Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Eduardo Rodriguez all of which have worked well with Blake throughout the minors, Swihart and this rotation could be a match made in heaven. All of this upside is still on top of his offensive ceiling. Vazquez is topped out and won’t get much better but Swihart is just getting started in my opinion, let us not forget that he is same age as Cubs third-baseman Kris Bryant how, like Blake, is still reaching his prime.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The one major difference between Bryant and Swihart is that Bryant has a Rookie of the Year and an All-Star appearance, meanwhile Swihart is still in AAA.

    Liked by 1 person

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