Ivan Rodriguez, one of the best catchers in Major League Baseball history, has sky-high expectations for Boston Red Sox backstop Christian Vazquez.
Vazquez impressed during his first season with the Red Sox, showcasing his remarkable defensive skills while emerging as a leader. Rodriguez even saw some similarities between Vazquez and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who currently is one of baseball’s best.
“He’s a special kid,” Rodriguez told the Boston Herald last week. “As far as catching, calling games, blocking balls, he did a tremendous job. Some of the things that he does behind the plate, it looks the same way that Yadi does.”
Molina is a six-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove winner. He’s regarded as one of baseball’s most valuable players and best leaders. While Vazquez might not develop into a player of Molina’s caliber, the 24-year-old’s tools and work ethic suggest a solid career lies ahead.
The question with Vazquez, of course, is whether he’ll produce enough offensively to bring his all-around game to the next level. Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star, doesn’t have such questions. He believes Vazquez will be just fine at the dish.
“When you can hit the ball the other way, trust me, you’re going to hit .300,” Rodriguez told the Herald. “I was a good inside-out hitter, and I hit the ball with authority to right-center. That’s what I see from him. That’s why I say he’s going to be a catcher that’s going to hit .300.”
Vazquez hit .240 with one homer, 20 RBIs and a .308 on-base percentage in 55 games with the Red Sox this season. He’s still a work in progress, especially when one starts making comparisons to Molina, a career .284 hitter who batted a career-best .319 in 2013. But even Red Sox manager John Farrell noticed offensive improvement from the young catcher down the stretch, saying after the season that he’d be “very comfortable” with Vazquez serving as Boston’s 2015 Opening Day catcher.
There’s sound logic behind an optimistic outlook, too. Just ask Rodriguez, a once-renowned defender who appreciates Vazquez’s confidence and fearlessness behind the plate.
“You can tell he watched a lot of videos of me because I wasn’t afraid to throw the ball, either,” Rodriguez said. “When you’re not afraid to do that, you’re going to play the game for a long time. That’s good to see from a young catcher.”
The early impressions of Vazquez have been strong. Folks around baseball are taking notice.
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