Most Major League Baseball teams would kill to have a top catching prospect. The Red Sox have two.
Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez already is making waves in the majors, and it’s likely he’ll be joined by fellow prospect Blake Swihart in the not-so-distant future. The early returns on Vazquez have been good, but many, including MLB.com’s Jim Callis, project the returns on Swihart to be even better.
Callis, who analyzes prospects for a living, lauded the Red Sox farm system during a recent WEEI.com podcast, pointing out that Boston might have the best left-handed pitching prospect (Henry Owens), best second base prospect (Mookie Betts) and best catching prospect (Swihart). Swihart is of particular interest to Callis, largely because of the switch-hitting backstop’s athleticism.
As such, Callis can’t imagine parting ways with Swihart, even if it meant landing Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels — a potential replacement for Jon Lester, whose future is uncertain. Swihart’s ceiling simply is too high, with Callis even making reference to San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey while discussing the 22-year-old.
“I’m the guy who keeps writing the line, and I always qualify this by saying I’m not saying Blake Swihart will be this. But Blake Swihart has the closest thing to Buster Posey’s tools since Buster Posey,” Callis said. “That’s a huge consideration. … You know what Jon Lester can do in Boston. You don’t have to worry about if there’s any adjustment there, though it’s not like Philadelphia is any cakewalk, either. Cole Hamels has been a world champion as well. But I think, if my choices were giving Jon Lester an extra year at $24 million or I could have Cole Hamels for one less year but I had to give up Blake Swihart and other players, I’m signing Jon Lester. I don’t want to give up Blake Swihart.
“I know you want the flexibility because the team got in a bad way when it committed all the dollars to (Carl) Crawford and (John) Lackey was hurt, and they had no flexibility before the Dodgers bailed them out, but at the same time, if Blake Swihart, I’m not going to say he’s going to be Buster Posey. Let’s not even say he’ll be an All-Star — we’ll just say an above-average catcher, a guy who can hit .280 with 15 homers and be a solid defender. That’s a pretty good player. That is probably an All-Star.”
So let’s recap. Callis isn’t saying Swihart will be a player of Posey’s caliber. However, he is saying that Swihart has a similar make-up, which is very intriguing given that Posey is a two-time All-Star, a former batting champion and the 2012 National League MVP. Oh yeah, he’s a two-time World Series champion, too.
Does Callis consider Swihart to be “untouchable” — click here for the Red Sox’s most untouchable assets — in trade talks? Well, he stopped short of that label. But Callis would be hesitant to trade Swihart, even if meant landing arguably the biggest fish mentioned in trade rumors.
“If I were running the Red Sox, I’m making the final call, Marlins are on the line and they’ll trade (outfielder) Giancarlo Stanton, the guy who it would pain me to give up would be Blake Swihart,” Callis said. “But you also have Christian Vazquez. Blake Swihart is arguably the best catching prospect in baseball. Christian Vazquez is in the top eight, 10, 15 catching prospects in baseball.
“So if Giancarlo Stanton is there and I have to part with Blake Swihart,” Callis added before stopping to consider the potential deal. “I would struggle with that. He would probably be the guy I would have the hardest time trading. That’s the hardest position to fill and he has a chance to be really, really good.”
Swihart, who currently is playing at Double-A Portland, was ranked the league’s No. 28 prospect, according to MLB.com’s 2014 midseason Top 100 Prospects list. The 2011 first-round pick ranked third in the Red Sox system, behind Betts and Owens.
Photo via Twitter/@SoxNH