MLB Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox: 5 Future Candidates At Catcher

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5 Future Candidates for Boston at Catcher

Boston Red Sox

The three-year tenure of Jarrod Saltamacchia as the primary backstop for the Boston Red Sox came to an end last month when they signed A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal. With that, the team now looks forward to who will be the catcher of the future.

For Boston, the catcher has seemed to be an indefinite spot the past few years, with the team bringing in Victor Martinez in 2010 and trading for Saltalamacchia in 2011. There has been no one good enough (or been with the team long enough) to truly take hold of the position and captain it as the Boston standard demands. Catcher is much like shortstop for Boston in that regard.

The Sox are really still trying to replace Jason Varitek, who caught over 100 games with the club in 11 of his 15 seasons. The question boils down to whether the Red Sox want to stay internally with a promotion, or if they would rather fill the need via trade. As of now, the Red Sox are stocked with promising catchers with low ceilings and high floors, so they may look to trade multiple prospects for an impact player. Or, they will like what they see on their side and stick with what they already have.

Pitchers and catchers have yet to report to Spring Training in 2014, but with Pierzynski signed just for this upcoming season, it is realistic to think that this is a mere bridge year, and that a long-term play could be made in the next offseason. 2015 seems like a fine year for a start my predictions because there is no better time to think about the future than the present.

Please join me as I prognosticate on who will be catching on Opening Day of 2015:

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5. Daniel Butler

Daniel Butler
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There was speculation at the beginning of the offseason that maybe Butler would be the man to get the starting gig over David Ross this coming season, but the signing of A.J. Pierzynski seems to have squashed that talk. Butler seems to be the most pro-ready prospect of the Thrilling Three (Butler, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart), and played well in Triple-A Pawtucket last season. He was an undrafted freeagent and has been with the organization since 2009. Butler does not dazzle in any facet of the game, but his case rests with his arm, as he has caught 37 percent of base runners in the last four years. He also has a low-salary, high flexibility, and is a low-commitment player – all of which the Red Sox like. He has seemingly run out of room to develop, so there is no concern about rushing him like there is about Vazquez. Butler is also ready to play defense at the professional level.

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4. Christian Vazquez

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Vazquez and Blake Swihart have the most buzz surrounding them going forward. It seems that Vazquez, the 23-year-old from the Dominican, is the leader in the chase for the job. He is a diminutive player, standing at 5-foot-9, but is stout at 195 pounds. His stats reflect his stature as he hit only five home runs in 481 at-bats for Double-A Portland. However, his 19 doubles could be a sign that he can slug. The biggest proponent for Vazquez is his defense, which has been lauded throughout the minors as a premiere skill. A large concern is that if the Red Sox rush him to the majors, which is not unreasonable for a catcher, it could damage him as well as the player he could become.

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3. Blake Swihart

Kelly L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Swihart’s ETA is 2016, so the Sox could give Vazquez one year to show what he has and then let Swihart learn on the job. He shows patience at the plate – a huge Red Sox plus – with 41 base-on balls in 422 plate appearances with High-A Salem. His defense seems to even rival Vazquez's as Swihart won the 2013 Red Sox Defensive Minor League Player of the Year honors. Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the third-best prospect in the Red Sox farm system after

Jackie Bradley, Jr.

and Xander Bogaerts – not bad company.

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2. Jason Castro

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The only trade target on this list is the current Houston Astros backstop. He hit .276/.350/.485 in 435 at-bats with 18 home runs. He plays excellent defense, is only 26 years of age and has proven himself at the major league level in the past three years. Castro is established and has a bigger body at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds than either Swihart or Vazquez, whom he would be replacing. The problem is getting him. Yes, the Houston Astros are a part of the new hip and rad youth movement, but they still value their under-30ers, which their team is mostly comprised of. The asking price and offer would be very far apart and for them to come together, it would most likely take Will Middlebrooks and either Swihart or Vazquez, along with more pieces. But as far as Castro as a player, he has shown what he can do on a major league diamond, which is a lot. Castro’s offensive WAR last year alone was 4.1. He a great producer offensively while sacrificing nothing on defense at 1.2 WAR.

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1. A.J. Pierzynski

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

The only way he starts 2015 as the Opening Day catcher for the Boston Red Sox is if the Red Sox decide neither Vazquez or Swihart is ready, Ryan Lavarnway and Butler’s flexibility are overshadowed by Pierzynski’s superior play, and if Pierzynski plays excellent ball this season. If those three things happen, and Pierzynski’s spray chart suggest they can, then he will earn another one-year deal. He may indeed even opt to to go another team who will give him multiple years. As of now, Fenway Park is the only stadium in the majors in which Pierzynski has not hit a home run, a fact which he is hoping to change this season.