One of the heavy criticisms that were consistently being made about the Red Sox roster through the first, atrocious, month of the season, was about the catcher position. We know there was a slight controversy when the front office decided to finally let go of longtime prospect, Blake Swihart, but with that, came disdain over the position’s overall inability to drive any sort of production at the plate.
And let’s be honest about the situation. After releasing Blake Swihart from his misery here in Boston, the catcher spot wasn’t looking ideal when it came to the batter’s box. Sandy Leon was being brought back up from Pawtucket and we know, aside from one spurt of greatness in 2016, he is overall pretty dreadful with the bat in his hands. A great game manager and defensive catcher, sure, but a liability when it comes to getting runners on base.
And his counterpart, Christian Vazquez, while not as poor at the plate, has never exactly been an offensive weapon you could rely on.
While the team was facing this array of criticism for letting the fan favorite, Swihart, go from the roster in favor of Leon and Vazquez, the 28-year-old Red Sox farm system product was making it tough for Red Sox fans to look past the botch job that was done to Swihart who is now apart of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Through the first month of the season, Vazquez was shaping up to look like much of the rest of the team. The end of April arrived and at the time, the catcher was hitting just .222 and for the month of April in and of itself, he hit .217.
Vazquez receives a lot of the same treatment that somebody like Jackie Bradley does. Truthfully, you don’t expect much out of them offensively. Their defensive ability is generally viewed as the strongest asset of their game, so you can learn to accept a batting average of around .250 if your expectations are low. Perhaps even .240 if he’s throwing out every attempted base stealer who dares to run on his cannon of an arm.
Regardless, the point here is, that wasn’t even what we were getting out of the catcher. And the problem with that? It wasn’t being masked by great offensive showings by the remainder of the roster because, well, everyone was playing like they were still celebrating the 2018 World Series Championship.
But while the team has begun to get their feet underneath them and the World Series hangover appears to be finally wearing off, Christian Vazquez has quietly become one of the team’s most productive hitters at the plate and he’s been overall, pretty consistent about it through most of the month of May.
Stumbling out of the gates for the current month, Vazquez went just 1-6, dropping his batting average to a dismal .218. Since his next start though on May 4th against the Chicago White Sox, Vazquez has been as hot as the earth’s core posting a batting average of .411, bringing his current numbers up to .290. And before today’s 0-4 day, he was sitting just a point shy of the .300 mark.
Even the Red Sox 22-year-old sensation in Rafael Devers–who finally appears as though he’s molding himself into the Major League power threat that we thought he could be–is hitting .367 during that same timeframe.
Through his 57 plate appearances from May 4th until today, May 26th, Vazquez has put the ball in play 23 times with four doubles, two home runs, five RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .589.
There have been a handful of times where you’ve had to question whether or not Vazquez’s defense truly warrants keeping him in the lineup at what seems to be a full-time capacity during his low moments at the plate. But we’ve seen flashes of Vazquez’s ability to get on base a few times during his career now.
Because the team underperformed near the end of the 2017 season, his solid year at the plate seemingly went unnoticed by many. He finished off the year with a .290 batting average and a .330 on-base percentage. Those numbers may not jump out to most, but couple them with his above-average defensive skillset and he’s an incredibly valuable asset to your ballclub.
During a season where the Red Sox struggle to, in a sense, find their identity, Christian Vazquez has been a bright spot that has seemed to become productive on a consistent base. And if they are going to find a way to climb back into this AL East race which is now beginning to become even hotter with the Rays proving daily that they are a legitimate threat for the division, the team needs production like this.
Christian Vazquez has been one of the Red Sox strongest components through the 2019 season thus far, and I’m genuinely interested to see if this type of production continues from the catcher.
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