Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (July 6, 2018 – Source: Brian Davidson/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox won Saturday night’s game by an impressive 15-4 margin, but it wasn’t all good news for the Sox. Catcher Christian Vazquez left the game with a fractured right pinky, and has no timetable to return. The fallout from this injury trickles down the roster, so let’s examine what the Christian Vazquez injury means for the Boston Red Sox.
Breaking Down the Christian Vazquez Injury
The Catching Situation
Throughout the majority of the season, Vazquez has been the primary catcher while Sandy Leon has been his backup. Prior to his disabled list stint, Vazquez has appeared in 60 games, while Leon has played in just 40. Blake Swihart, the third catcher on the depth chart, has started just one game behind the plate.
While injuries are never good, the consequent fallout could actually improve the offense. While Vazquez has warmed up at the plate recently, Leon has been the better offensive player. Since May 14th, Leon owns a slash line of .316/.353/.506 with a 131 wRC+. Quite frankly, he’s been one of the better offensive catchers in the league.
Similarly, Vazquez had started to turn his season around on May 16th. While his offensive production did improve, he still wasn’t the same type of hitter as Leon. Since May 16th, the righty posted a .255/.277/.398 slash line to go along with a 79 wRC+. Ok numbers for a catcher, but not nearly as good as what Leon was posting.
Additionally, this move could help the pitching staff. The Red Sox pitchers have performed considerably better with Leon behind the plate as compared to Vazquez. Through 304.2 innings, Leon has a catcher’s ERA (CERA) of 3.13, an improvement on Vazquez 3.76 CERA. While CERA is far from a perfect stat, this sizable jump in ERA implies that Leon does a better job calling a game than Vazquez.
The Roster Fallout
Sending Vazquez to the DL opens up a roster spot on the 25-man roster, and it also gives job security to Blake Swihart. On the previous Red Sox Unfiltered Podcast, we discussed how Swihart would likely be the first guy to go when Brandon Phillips joins the roster.
Scratch that prediction. With Vazquez gone, Swihart is now in line to see a decent amount of time on the field, specifically behind the plate. Catching is probably the most physically-demanding position in baseball, and Leon will not start every game while Vazquez is gone. While Leon will remain the main guy behind the plate, Swihart will probably start one to two games a week behind the plate.
Swihart has struggled this season, posting an ugly .185/.250/.210 slash line with a 25 wRC+ in 88 plate apperances. However, he’s never had much regular playing time. 2015 showed that Swihart can be a serviceable player at the very least, and perhaps regular playing time will help to bring that production back.
This very well could be the last chance Swihart gets. Following the Hanley Ramirez release, Swihart failed to impress as a do-everything utility player. If he still can’t get anything going as a catcher, the Sox will have no choice but to move on.
Additionally, Vazquez injury means the Sox won’t have to make a roster move when activating Phillips. When Vazquez does return, there will a decision on who to release. Right now, the choices appear to be Swihart and second baseman Eduardo Nunez. If Swihart shows he can hit, the Sox will most likely say goodbye to Nunez. If he falters, Swihart will have to begin his career anew with a new franchise.