RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase's Red Sox catcher preview: Can Vazquez carry the load?

RED SOX INSIDER

Below are capsule previews of the Red Sox catching corps, which is a bit of a throwback. Starter Christian Vazquez wants to play as many games as possible, despite the physical demands of the position, and establish himself as a true everyday catcher.

Backup Kevin Plawecki is ideally suited for his supporting role, and he proved last year that he can pitch in a pinch as well.

(Note: Ages are as of Opening Day, while projected stats are courtesy Baseball-Reference and Tom Tango.)

Christian Vazquez

Age: 30

Bats: Right

Outlook: It's easy to forget that Vazquez arrived in the big leagues on the strength of a cannon throwing arm and advanced defensive game. Over the last two years, however, he has emerged as a legitimate offensive threat, with a career-high 23 homers in 2019 and a roughly similar pace last year, when he posted a career-best .801 OPS.

Vazquez possesses borderline All-Star potential and he knows his way around the organization as the longest-tenured player remaining on the roster, since he was drafted back in 2008 by Theo Epstein. He's signed through this season for reasonable money with an affordable $7 million option in 2022. That either makes him a piece of the future, or potential trade bait.

Boston's backstop workhorse

Percent of games Vazquez has appeared in since 2019
72.5%

Best case: Vazquez continues to be an opportunist when he sees a fastball he likes and hits 25 homers while catching 140 games.

Worst case: The Red Sox struggle with an injury-riddled pitching staff and Vazquez becomes a prime trade candidate at the deadline.

 

Projected stats: .253 batting average, 18 home runs, 60 RBIs, .732 OPS

Kevin Plawecki

Age: 30

Bats: Right

Outlook: Chaim Bloom's clever touch was evident in the performance of Plawecki, who arrived from Cleveland in what was effectively a swap of backup catchers. While Sandy Leon went to Cleveland after being non-tendered and hit just .136, Plawecki signed a free agent deal in Boston and promptly hit .341 in 82 at-bats.

He also extended his scoreless streak on the mound to three appearances over two seasons by retiring a pair of batters in an emergency relief outing vs. the Rays. A former New York Mets first-round pick, Plawecki can also play a little first base.

Best case: Plawecki hits .341 again and isn't asked to pitch.

Worst case: He slumps back into the low .200s and forces the Red Sox to explore reacquiring someone like Leon.

Projected stats: .241-8-41-.703

Tomase's infield preview: Is there enough depth after Devers and Bogaerts?

Connor Wong

Age: 24

Bats: Right

Outlook: The Red Sox are intrigued by Wong's athleticism. He was the final piece of the Mookie Betts trade last spring, and even if he doesn't necessarily look the part of a big league catcher at a (generously?) listed 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, there's plenty to like about his bat.

He has hit .275 with an .852 OPS in parts of three minor-league seasons, and after topping out at Double-A Tulsa in 2019, he should see Triple-A Worcester this year. With the Red Sox valuing versatility, it's also worth noting that Wong played shortstop in college and is considered a viable defender at second and third if the need arises.

Best case: Wong shows that his lifetime slugging percentage of .510 isn't a fluke and forces his way to Boston.

Worst case: He continues striking out at more than a 30 percent clip and stalls in the minors.

Projected stats: None.