Catcher is not a position that gets a whole lot of notoriety. Historically, or at least recently, it’s been a position in which the team is willing to sacrifice headline making offensive output for supremely unsexy defensive acumen. Christian Vazquez is primed to be an exception to that rule for the Boston Red Sox. The 27-year old backstop from Puerto Rico is entering his second full season in the bigs lined up to be #1 on the depth chart ahead of Sandy Leon. He’s enjoyed moderate success up to this point in his career. He’s already considered one of the better defensive catchers in the league, and all signs point to a step up at the plate in 2018.
Vazquez’s career can really be broken down into two “eras:” the part-time era and the full-time era. From his debut in 2014 to 2016, he hit .233 with just 2 HR and 32 RBI in 347 scattered AB’s. Those are pretty underwhelming numbers, but respectable enough for a guy struggling to find the consistent playing needed to get into a groove. In 2017, his first full season with the club, he stepped it up, hitting .290 with 5 HR, 18 2B, 32 RBI and a .735 OPS in 324 AB’s. More importantly, though, was his progression throughout the season. He hit .267 in the first half of 2017, but then hit .314 in the 2nd half, including .385 in August when most of the rest of the team was slumping.
It’s clear that he grew more and more comfortable facing Major League pitching as the season went on, a vital tool when charting one’s potential. Those late season performances are indicative of a player coming into his own, one who’s ready to become a major cog in an elite offense. His Spring Training this year points towards even more optimism, as well, as he’s batting .296 with an impressive .804 OPS thus far.
Aside from the improvement of his stats, there are other aspects of Vazquez’s game that are encouraging. Although he lacks the power to become a true home run threat, the power he does possess is to left field, where that little thing called the Green Monster stands a tantalizing 310 feet away from home.
As you can see in Fangraphs’ spray chart above, all of Vazquez’s homers have gone left, with over half of them pretty much straight down the line, so as he gets more comfortable against big league pitching, it’s not unthinkable that he could possibly hit somewhere between 15-20 home runs in a single year.
Additionally, Vazquez has long been considered a superior defender. In fact, his 12 defensive runs saved in 2017 was good for 7th in all of the MLB for catchers, plus he has a strong arm and one of the quickest releases in the league. As he sees more and more time behind the plate (which he’s expected to going forward), that DRS number will likely increase up to elite levels next to the likes of Buster Posey and Yadier Molina.
Add it all up and the Red Sox have a sturdy post for pitchers to lean on behind the plate and a hitter that they can count on to produce towards the bottom of their order.