Blake Swihart Won’t be Down for Long
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Christian Vazquez up and Blake Swihart down. That’s old news by now. Swihart was struggling with intangibles behind the plate, so he will need to work on them in Triple-A, of course.
Interestingly enough though, Dave Dombrowski said that Swihart will also start taking fly balls and will learn how to play left field — because the Red Sox think anyone can play left field.
And no, that’s not just a knock at Hanley Ramirez. They put Travis Shaw, Kevin Youkilis, Lars Anderson and Nate Spears out there too — just to name a few.
Swihart, athlete that he is, is pretty new to catching full-time. He was always a catcher slash something else in his amateur career — whether it be first base, shortstop, pitcher or left fielder. He played some left field on the Team USA 18U team in 2010, so he is not completely new to the outfield.
Watching Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan, there is no debate: they are more well-rounded catchers and give the Red Sox a better chance at winning games right now. Even as he was rushed to the big leagues because of Hanigan’s injury last season, Swihart proved he could hit major league pitching — especially right-handed pitching. Think about it: he could potentially be the starting left fielder by the season’s end. Wow.
All this talk of Swihart potentially becoming this versatile piece is finally coming to fruition. And if people seem to think the Red Sox would be crazy to carry three catchers on the roster then look at their bench right now. It is: Hanigan (backup catcher), Josh Rutledge (middle infielder), Marco Hernandez (another middle infielder) and Chris Young (left-handed mashing outfielder).
One could argue Rutledge and Hernandez are only on the roster right now to fill space. Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts are going to play every day and neither of them is an adequate third baseman. But Holt is — and Young can play left field.
Regardless though, if someone can hit, they are going to play. And Swihart can hit pretty well. Swihart owns a .286 average and .734 OPS against right-handed pitchers in 224 MLB at-bats. Without as much wear and tear on his knees catching games and some more big league experience, that number would probably be even better — and an upgrade over Holt’s lifetime .697 OPS against righties.
For those calling for Swihart trades, please stop eating lucrative amount of paint chips. If it’s a trade for Sonny Gray, then please go to the doctor for a quick brainscan. Last year, he was beating out sliced bread in the greatest things contest. It is April 16th, he is 24 years old and he has not been catching his whole life.
The Red Sox could go in many directions from here. They could take their time and let Swihart focus on catching and work out his kinks. Or they could do a little with him in that regard, see how he does in left field and give him a bench spot with the big league club.
There’s room on the major league club and the way Swihart hits, there is reason to believe his stay in the minors will not be too long.