MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — The comparison isn’t new, yet it becomes more intriguing each time it’s referenced.
Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has been compared to Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina several times because of his defensive acumen. Pitcher Joe Kelly has played with both catchers — Vazquez in Boston, Molina in St. Louis — and he insists the evaluation is spot-on.
“Mini Yadi. That’s his nickname. I call him that,” Kelly said confidently Saturday when asked how Vazquez compares to Molina. “He literally works with the Molina brothers in the offseason. They’re both from Puerto Rico, and growing up he idolized those guys.
“He called me this offseason and said, ‘Man, I just got done working with Yadi.’ He works with him every offseason. He works with Jose (Molina). He works with Bengie (Molina). He works with all of them. His behind-the-plate skills are awesome. Definitely a mini Yadi.”
Saying Vazquez is a Molina clone might be putting the cart before the horse. Molina is a six-time All-Star, a seven-time Gold Glove winner and a two-time World Series champion, while Vazquez has just 55 games of big league experience and won’t turn 25 until August.
But no one is asking Kelly — or any other person who’s made the comparison — to assess Vazquez for what he currently is. Instead, the association reflects Vazquez’s unique style and potential to be a leader behind the dish, much like Molina.
“They catch, they set up, they, I wouldn’t say they think the same, but (Vazquez is) getting there about reading hitters and stuff,” Kelly said. “But he has definitely similar tendencies (to Molina). And he’s just the right (amount) of cockiness and confident behind the plate that he’s perfect for catching.
“He prides himself on defense and he almost tries to tempt runners to go. He likes to back pick like Yadi: one knee, call a fastball inside, miss inside, back pick. Stuff that Yadi does all the time.”
Vazquez has drawn rave reviews since making his major league debut in July. His offense still is a work in progress, but his defensive prowess is undeniable and his baseball intelligence already is apparent.
Yadier Molina 2.0? It’s not far-fetched.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images