Following the injuries of catchers Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart, Sandy Leon was called up in June to back up defensive specialist Christian Vazquez. He started off his major league campaign on a tear, posting a 1.074 OPS over his first 167 plate appearances, earning him the starting job from from the offensively struggling Vazquez, who batted just .227. The switch-hitting backstop mashed southpaws .373/.450/.612 (0.77 BB/K), while posting a modest .286/.337/.427 line against righties (0.25 BB/K). Although his bat cooled off a bit (.213/.286/.253 in September), the 28-year-old still slashed .310/.369/.476 in 78 games after being called up. Leon also led the Red Sox in innings behind the plate, catching 600.1 innings last season, earning the trust of manager John Farrell in the process. Even if Boston doesn't add an alternative to the depth chart before the start of spring training, Leon is only a marginal bet to open 2017 as Boston's starter. He'll likely only deliver occasional utility in two-catcher mixed fantasy leagues.
Leon went 2-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI in Monday's game against the Orioles. Leon, a switch-hitter, homered from both sides of the plate during Boston's nine-run fourth inning. These were his first extra-base hits of the spring. The 28-year-old catcher was cool at the plate to start the spring, but has heated up with more plate appearances, hitting in five of his last six games (7-for-19). Leon will open the season as Boston's starting catcher, but backup Christian Vazquez should grab at least two games a week.
Manager John Farrell said Leon remains the starting catcher heading into the regular season, Rob Bradford of WEEI reports. Leon has turned things around a bit after a recent slump and is 6-for-23 this spring, though that comes with an underwhelming .553 OPS, without an extra-base hit. Still, Farrell likes what Leon brings with his overall game, and, for as questionable as its sustainability for 2017 may be, the 28-year-old hit .310/.369/.476 with seven home runs in 283 plate appearances last year. Fantasy players in two-catcher mixed leagues could do worse when scouring for a late-round, No. 2 receiver.
Leon is hitting just .188 (3-for-16) over seven games, but that's not a concern of manager John Farrell and the catcher remains Boston's presumptive Opening Day starter, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. "We've been in a situation where we have rotated three guys in a starting role, so guys have been getting two at-bats every third day," Farrell said. "The offensive evaluation can be a little unfair." The eye test isn't good for Leon, who has struck out or grounded out in 11 of his 16 spring at-bats. With this coming after a serious September fade in 2016, fantasy owners should treat Leon with circumspection. Red Sox hitting coach Victor Rodriguez echoes Farrell's comments about getting regular at-bats and added that Leon tired toward the end of 2016 under what had been career-high usage. He and Christian Vazquez project to start the season in Boston, but that duo is a potential cipher offensively. The Red Sox may eventually call up a better offensive weapon like Blake Swihart.
Leon enters spring training as Boston's starting catcher, according to manager John Farrell, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. Farrell recognizes the breakout season Leon enjoyed in 2016, when he had an .845 OPS and seven homers, but it doesn't take an advanced degree in statistics to expect a massive correction for the catcher that had a career OPS of .483 prior to 2016. If Leon's bat resembles what we saw in September -- he hit .216/.280/.257/.537 during the month -- he'll lose the starting job to either Christian Vazquez or Blake Swihart.
Leon agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox on Friday, avoiding arbitration. Terms of the agreement were not made public. Leon is coming off what may go down as a career year, slashing .310/.369/.476 over 283 plate appearances. However, every projection system forecasts massive regression, and he will have to compete with Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart for regular duty behind the dish.