FORT MYERS, Fla. — Forget 2015. The Boston Red Sox could deploy Christian Vazquez as their everyday catcher in 2014 and probably be OK.
That isn’t going to happen, as the Red Sox’s major league catching situation already is set with A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross. But Boston should be very excited about Vazquez’s development, particularly as it pertains to the 23-year-old’s offense.
“As we’ve talked about before, I think sometimes Christian gets all the notoriety for what he does behind the plate defensively, but he’s put a number of swings on some pitches in camp here that have been very good,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Saturday’s 13-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. “The progress he made over the last year offensively continues to grow, and he’s swinging the bat with much more authority.”
Vazquez was responsible for Boston’s only offense in Saturday night’s lopsided loss to Baltimore. He capped an impressive ninth-inning at-bat by launching a towering two-run homer over the Green Monster at JetBlue Park, making him 3-for-6 with a walk in four spring training games thus far.
Vazquez’s offensive progress this spring really is a continuation of what began in 2013. The young backstop, who played in 96 games with Double-A Portland before making a one-game stop at Triple-A Pawtucket, significantly increased his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS while nearly trimming his strikeout total in half over 2012. It was a transformation Vazquez said earlier this week was made possible by his extensive work with Sea Dogs hitting coach Rich Gedman.
“(Gedman) talks a lot about staying focused and staying to the middle of the field,” Vazquez said. “That helped me a lot.”
Vazquez was an intriguing prospect even before last season because of his defensive skills. The former ninth-round pick has a rocket arm, a quick release, an incredible pop time and impressive instincts. Plus, Vazquez has developed into an established minor league field general behind the dish. Offense seemingly was the one area in which he needed to improve.
Now that Vazquez is coming into his own offensively, it’s easy to see why the Red Sox were reluctant to hand out anything longer than a one-year deal to a catcher in free agency. Not only should Vazquez be major league ready by 2015, but it’s also entirely possible that he could break into the majors this season if something happens to one of Boston’s veteran catchers.
Ross told the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber in Fort Myers this week that Vazquez reminds him of St. Louis Cardinals catcher/five-time All-Star Yadier Molina. That might be jumping the gun given Molina’s big league resume, but Ross’ point was that Vazquez features a lot of the same tools.
Vazquez’s list of tools looks like it’s still growing.