One of the only storylines throughout the Boston Red Sox spring training has been at the catcher position. The Red Sox entered camp with Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart, and Sandy Leon under contract, but with the understanding that all three probably wouldn’t be there at the start of the season. Vazquez was always the safest bet to stick around, with Swihart and Leon battling for the backup spot.
Using spring training data for anything is obviously dangerous, but Blake Swihart is clearly the better option at catcher. Sandy Leon is a strong defensive catcher, but the merits for keeping Swihart are just to strong. Thanks to his strong camp, Blake Swihart has proved he deserves the catcher spot over Sandy Leon.
Blake Swihart Deserves Catcher Spot
This obviously came in a small sample size, but Blake Swihart has been tearing the cover off the ball in spring training. Through the first six games of his season, the switch-hitting catcher has recorded a .357/.400/.429 slash line with one double. He hasn’t been lighting the world on fire, but he’s been making solid contact with strong plate appearances.
That’s more than Sandy Leon can say. Through Sandy’s first eight games, the longtime catcher is posting a .235/.381/.412 slash line with one home run. This is in line with his usual career averages, as Leon has never been an inspiring option with the bat.
Swihart struggled offensively in 2018, but he climbed through the ranks as a bat-first catching prospect. Catchers with his hit tool are incredibly rare around the league, and the Red Sox owe it to themselves to see if they can still salvage Swihart’s potential. Sandy Leon, as reliable as he is, simply doesn’t have that offensive potential.
Behind the Plate
Of course, being a good catcher is about a lot more than just hitting the ball well. Moreso than any other position in baseball, a good catcher needs to be able to play good defense. Small sample size disclaimer, but Swihart has yet to record an error and has overall looked good behind the plate.
This adds to a season where Swihart played well on the few occasions he was allowed to catch. Defense will never be his calling card, but Swihart can be a league-average defensive catcher. Leon, meanwhile, is one of the best defensive catchers in the league and is an absolute liability at the plate.
Swihart is clearly ahead of Leon at this point, and he’s also the cheaper option. Both Leon and Swihart are arbitration eligible, with Leon on the books for $2.4 million and Swihart accounting for just $900 thousand.
The Boston Red Sox are already up against the luxury tax line and team owner John Henry clearly wants to keep the payroll down. If he didn’t, the Red Sox would’ve signed a decent reliever by now. $1.5 million isn’t much for an MLB owner, but it helps free up some money for a midseason player acquisition. Swihart’s the cheaper and better option and should be on the Red Sox roster comeOpening Day.