Sandy Leon was the widely-drafted Red Sox catcher last season, but Christian Vazquez ended up being significantly more valuable in both real life and fantasy. Granted his fantasy value was tied closely to a .290 average, and that number was buoyed by an inflated .348 BABIP. However, Vazquez was a big plus behind the dish and should get a chance to build on his run and RBI totals with more playing time in 2018, assuming the Red Sox don't bring in a more potent bat to serve as the primary backstop. Vazquez doesn't walk much (4.9 percent last season) or get the ball in the air very often (28 percent flyball rate), but he runs more than most catchers (7-for-9 in stolen base attempts) and can work the ball the other way (33.3 opposite-field percentage). As of now it appears Vazquez will open the year atop the depth chart, and that puts him in the discussion as a low-end first catcher.
Vazquez agreed to a one-year, $1.425 million deal with Boston on Friday, MLB.com's Ian Browne reports. This was the first year of arbitration eligibility for Vazquez. The backstop took over the starting job by the end of last season, slashing .290/.330/.404 with five home runs, 32 RBI and seven stolen bases in 99 games. A BABIP of .348 shows signs of regression, but he should see more action behind the plate as Sandy Leon reverts into a more reserved role this coming season.
Vazquez said that he needs to get better at calling a game, Ian Browne of MLB.com reports, Vazquez carries a reputation as an elite defensive catcher but is still learning the art of pitch sequencing and playing to the strength of a pitcher. He's rebounded nicely from Tommy John elbow surgery in 2015 and emerged as Boston's leading catcher. The 27-year-old essentially split the catching chores with Sandy Leon in 2017, but Vazquez was the much better hitter (.290/.330/.404) and should get the greater share of at-bats in 2018. In addition to his surprising hitting results, Vazquez's arm came back to pre-surgery strength, as he threw out 21 of 50 would-be base stealers.
Vazquez is not in the lineup for Sunday's ALDS Game 3 against the Astros, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. Vazquez drew the start in Friday's Game 2, going 2-for-3 with a walk and run scored. Despite his productive performance, he'll head back to the bench in favor of Sandy Leon as the Red Sox look to defend their home field and take Game 3 from Brad Peacock and the Astros.
Vazquez is not in the lineup for Thursday's ALDS opener against the Astros, The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham reports. Sandy Leon will set up behind the plate for Game 1 while Vazquez occupies a seat on the bench. Although he's cooled off a little bit as of late, Vazquez has been hitting well this season, slashing .290/.330/.404 with five home runs and 32 RBI, and could receive a start for Friday's contest with left-hander Dallas Keuchel on the mound.
Vazquez is starting behind the dish and hitting eighth Saturday against the Astros, Tim Britton of The Providence Journal reports. He was scratched from Friday's lineup for an unknown reason, but is back in there Saturday, so any injury was obviously quite minor. Vazquez is hitting .295/.328/.410 with one home run in 61 at-bats this month.