Unlike most teams in the MLB, the Boston Red Sox find themselves in a very unique situation. The only two catchers on the 25-man roster (A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross) are both 37 years old, making them the oldest catching tandem in the bigs. However, despite the large amounts of professional experience possessed by both catchers, having two catchers above the age of 35 could potentially lead to a lineup influx and a lack of productivity at the catcher position.
Pierzynski, who has played for five teams during his 16-year career, was signed by the Red Sox during the offseason after starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed a two-year contract with the Miami Marlins. Pierzynski, despite hitting .272 with the Texas Rangers in 2013, has been known to be an aggressive hitter at the plate, rarely settling for walks, and consistently failing to produce in big spots. It was due to these notions that he had a career-low .297 on base percentage with the Rangers.
A notable example of Pierzynski’s frustrating tendencies occurred in the eighth inning of Monday’s Opening Day loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Facing lefty Brian Matusz with two runners on base and two outs, Pierzynski swung at a high outside pitch, which resulted in a ground out to Matusz, ending the offensive threat. In order to be successful with the Red Sox, Pierzynski needs to be more conservative at the plate, which in turn could help the Red Sox capitalize in those high-risk situations.
In addition to Pierzynski, Ross is another veteran catcher who brings successful tutelage to pitchers and younger catchers. However, unlike Pierzynski, Ross is not the greatest hitter, as he hit just .216 in 36 games in 2013. Although he dealt with lingering concussion issues during the season, Ross still was a valuable catcher during the 2013 postseason, hitting the go-ahead RBI double against the Detroit Tigers in Game 5 of the 2013 American League Championship Series. Ross’ health issues in the past could hurt his chances of being a productive player on the field in 2014, but his great personality and veteran status makes him a valuable backup catcher.
Besides Pierzynski and Ross, the Red Sox have many options in their minor league system who could potentially become quality Major League catchers. The most notable of these catching prospects is Christian Vazquez, who turned heads with his great offensive skills and defensive prowess during Spring Training. Vazquez is slated to be the starting catcher for the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA), and could possibly break into the bigs by the end of the season. Also, Ryan Lavarnway (who the Red Sox are trying to groom as a designated hitter in Pawtucket this season) and minor leaguers Dan Butler and Blake Swihart should be candidates for a potential call-up in the near future.
In essence, the Red Sox have an interesting situation in that both catchers on their active roster are both 37 years old. However, Pierzynski and Ross have had injury troubles in the past, which makes the importance of minor league development an essential factor this season. Players like Vazquez, Lavarnway, Butler and Swihart will have the benefits of learning valuable catching lessons from two veteran catchers, which should help them in the long term. However, expect those one of those four players to potentially get called up if inconsistency and injuries plague the two aging Major League catchers in 2014.