Photo Credit: Catherine Varitek (Twitter)
It’s time to review the report cards for each Red Sox position group. Let’s begin with the backstops!
As always, it’s fun to look at the season in review – especially when it ended in a World Series title for the Boston Red Sox. We’ll dive into each position group and provide individual grades for each player that appeared at that given position.
Butler’s Major League “cup of tea” happened so quickly (and in Baltimore) that many Red Sox fans may have missed his appearances. At the plate, the Pawtucket call up went 1-6 with an RBI.
Behind the plate, Butler caught one of Nathan Eovaldi‘s worst starts in a Red Sox uniform (2.2 IP / 10 Hits / 8 R) and allowed a passed ball. To be fair, it’s not easy making your first big league appearance since 2014; however he was serviceable when the Sox were dealing with a plethora of injuries. Additionally, Butler threw out 3 of 5 runners attempting to steal.
His cameo was certainly easily missed; however he will be receiving a World Series ring for his time with the Red Sox.
Where to begin with Sandy? He’s the most polarizing catcher on the Red Sox roster in the sense that he has elite defensive metrics, but offensive statistics that should result in being DFA’d. Leon hit an abysmal .177 at the plate with 5 HR & 22 RBI’s. At times, he was clearly overmatched and totally lost at the plate. His saving grace with the bat was his .500 batting average in the World Series, collecting a couple of important plate appearances and RBI’s en route to a championship.
Leon makes his money behind the plate. He’s received multiple kind words from Red Sox pitchers throughout his tenure in Boston, even being dubbed the “best catcher” Rick Porcello had ever thrown to. According to Baseball Reference, he was 4th in the American League in catcher ERA for those who caught at least 1,000 innings. Additionally, he was 10th in baseball for catcher Defensive WAR with a 0.9, despite an overall WAR of -.05.
President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, has already stated that it would be unlikely for the Red Sox to carry three catchers next season, leaving Leon’s status up in the air for 2019. However, he was a valuable player for the Sox this past season and is one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball.
Playing time doesn’t truly allow for the full story of Swihart to be written, but he flashed solid potential when given the opportunity. Whether it was injury or misuse from John Farrell, the former top catching prospect has been in limbo throughout this career.
A .229 / 3 HR / 18 RBI’s line isn’t exactly exciting for the entire season, but he was given routine playing time from roughly July 10th until the postseason. During this time, Swihart hit .261, collected all three homeruns, and had 14 of his 18 RBI’s. It’s an encouraging sign that when given routine playing time, the University of Texas can produce.
The knock on Swihart since his arrival in Boston was his defensive struggles. Often times he couldn’t handle Major League pitching, leading to multiple passed balls and wild pitches. In 2018, he posted a career-best allowing zero passed balls and only 7 wild pitches. He threw out 26% of runners – also a career high – and flashed signs up a plus arm that didn’t represent a significant drop off from either Leon or Vazquez.
Blake’s status with the Red Sox remains up in the air, but it’s clear that he can play in this league and played an important role throughout the course of the season. His grade ultimately reflects his future potential, coupled with the success he enjoyed in regular playing time.
The Red Sox very clear identified Vazquez as their primary catcher when they inked him to a 3 year extension before the beginning of the 2018 season. Christian certainly didn’t live up to the extension, despite being hindered by injury and irregular playing time due to the catcher platoon.
Vazquez keeps with the trend of poor offensive output for the Red Sox catchers as he posted a .207 / 3 HR / 16 RBI’s line. He’s an incredibly streaky hitter at the plate, but is known to launch a deep homerun occasionally. Vazquez’ best at-bats are when he’s able to shoot the ball into the right-center gap and then pull the ball for power.
He’s a very solid defender, posting a 0.2 Defensive WAR, but relies heavily on his arm. He threw out 36% of runners this season; however he tied his career for passed balls allowed – something the Red Sox would like him to minimize. Overall, he’s the second best defensive option in Boston, but could stand to become consistent at the plate. However, he’s certainly not the best option at first base.
CoLo is essentially a lock for the 2019 Red Sox roster, but his grade will reflect the inconsistency that he produced this season.
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