In addition to snapping their three-game losing streak, the Red Sox made some more news last night. Not long after the conclusion of their 4-2 win over the Orioles, the Red Sox announced that they had sent outfielder Rusney Castillo to Triple-A Pawtucket. At the time, no corresponding move was announced.
That changed around noon on Thursday when the Red Sox announced that they would promote catcher Christian Vazquez to the big leagues. Evan Drellich of The Boston Herald was one of the first to tweet the news.
Vazquez’s arrival will impact the playing time of both Blake Swihart and Ryan Hanigan.
Hanigan’s bat has never been his strength. Swihart, a switch-hitter and former first round draft pick is still expected to develop into a very good major league hitter.
Vazquez is different.
The moment he takes the field, he’s one of the best defensive catchers in the majors. No position on the diamond, with the possible exceptions of shortstop and center field, places the same type of premium on defense as the catcher position does.
It isn’t just that Vazquez has a rifle arm and can pick-off runners who get caught napping at first, or who try to swipe second. Vazquez also possess elite pitch-framing ability. So elite that within two weeks of his 2014 major league debut, FanGraphs.com was penning lengthy, in-depth columns singing his praises.
With Vazquez, the questions have always centered around his bat. He didn’t have to win a batting title or an MVP award to justify his spot on a big league roster, but the Red Sox weren’t going to make him a starter if he was an easy out three or four times a game.
Less than two weeks into the 2016 season Blake Swihart is slashing a respectable .278/.391/.278. His five hits have all been singles. Swihart has really struggled in the field, he’s misplayed some pop-flys and has made a few errant throws to second base. He’s thrown-out only one of four base-stealers and allowed three passed balls.
Vazquez has started the season on-fire in Pawtucket. He’s slashing .462/.650/.538 and he’s shown no ill-effects from the tommy john surgery that cost him the entire 2015 season.
The real issue is what do the Red Sox do if Vazquez continues to hit the ball in the majors?
Swihart would be a very tough prospect to stomach trading, but he’s exactly the type of player that other organizations would covet.
For now the Red Sox will get a close look at Vazquez and give both Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart some time on the pine. Base-stealers beware, Christian Vazquez is behind the plate, so run at your own risk.