Is it time for a change at catcher?
Vazquez’s offensive production has seen great improvement in June
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (May 12, 2018 – Source: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America)
The back-end of the Red Sox lineup has been a bit of a production void this season. Batters 7-9 have lacked in carrying their weight as the front-end of the lineup is one of the best in baseball. Part of that back-end is the catcher position. Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez both struggled to get much going at the plate this season. But, the month of June has been kind to both of them.
Vazquez, who gets a majority of the starts over Leon, entered the month hitting an abysmal .188 with no homers and only 6 RBI in 138 at bats. While he is primarily known as a defensive catcher, that kind of production in the first two months of the season has been the worst of his career. Last year through May, he was hitting .341 with an OPS of .838. While the power numbers weren’t there, Vazquez was a much better and much more productive hitter last year before June.
This month, however, Vazquez has been a different hitter. He’s hit .298 in in 57 at bats. His 3 home runs on the year have all come in June, and he’s slugging .526 with 6 RBI. This uptick in production, along with fellow back of the lineup hitter Jackie Bradley Jr., has made the lineup much more well-rounded. There’s more confidence in the back-end to produce.
Leon has also been improving. Towards the end of May, his average rose to around .250 and has consistently stayed around that level, which is better than where he was at the beginning of the season. Vazquez should certainly be the starter, though. If he can keep hitting at this rate, there would be no need to make any moves at the position. Leon can be a fine stand-in on nights where Vasquez isn’t in the lineup.
Not only is Vazquez improving, but the market is small for catcher. The position lacks depth across the league. It would be hard to find improvement outside of the top few guys. But, they’re neither on the block or are going to cost way too much in terms of assets. Boston’s farm system is still somewhat gutted from the Sale trade, so trading for an average (at best) catcher wouldn’t be worth losing another prospect.
Speaking of assets and catchers, Blake Swihart still finds himself stuck in limbo between the bench and Pawtucket. And, at age 26, Swihart could be valuable to any number of teams. He’s young, versatile (he’s primarily a catcher but can play the outfield) and his contract is manageable. He’s actually in the final year of his contract, which gives even more incentive for the Sox to find a trade partner.
With three catchers on the active roster and Swihart getting practically getting no time, don’t be surprised if Boston moves a catcher instead of bringing one in.