On a day the Red Sox were not on television, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart put on a bit of a show at the plate. The first three catchers on the depth chart were all in the same starting lineup today, with Christian Vazquez behind the plate, Swihart at first, and Leon at DH. Combined, they went 5 for 10 at the plate, but I just want to focus on Swihart and Leon. Last week, I wrote about who should backup Christian Vazquez this season, because it is presumed that he will be the starter. Both Swihart and Leon are out of minor league options, so one of them is most likely gone if they both do not make the Opening Day roster. Today’s game against the Blue Jays was a prime example of the competition that may be going on between them. There doesn’t seem to be any video available, but Leon hit his two home runs in the second and fourth innings while Swihart hit his in the fifth.
Throughout this spring, Swihart has gotten a significant amount of at bats compared to what Leon has gotten. 35 for Swihart and only 12 for Leon. I’m not looking into that though, because I have a hunch Leon will make the roster no matter what. I mean, he is essentially the personal catcher for the best pitcher on the staff, that’s all the reason you need to keep him. The only thing that counters this thought is how much the Red Sox seem to value Swihart. His trade value is probably at its highest right now, but I have not heard anything about a potential trade. Keeping both Swihart and Leon on the 25-man roster seems like a stretch, but I’m not in that clubhouse or front office, so I don’t know what to make of it.
Opening Day may be 23 days away, but it’s never too early to look at rosters and see how they may shape out as the regular season draws near. Right now, it appears the Red Sox may have more position players than spots available on the 25-man roster. If you look at what the Opening Day roster would look like now, then you would have Hanley Ramirez, Eduardo Nunez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and JD Martinez playing everyday. At catcher, Christian Vazquez has earned the starter role after the season he put up in 2017. It’s after him where things get interesting. Both Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon are coming off of seasons I’m sure they would like to forget. Leon, who put up career high numbers in 2016, saw a significant drop in those numbers last year. And Swihart, who at one time was one of the most recognized catching prospects in baseball, only appeared in six games for the big league club in 2017, while hitting a measly .190 in 53 games with the Pawtucket Red Sox.
I can’t say I know this for certain, but I would assume that the Red Sox front office thinks more highly of Blake Swihart then they do of Sandy Leon. Swihart has been with the team since 2011 when he was drafted in the first round of the amateur draft. Like I said, he was a highly touted prospect at one time and has proved that when healthy, he can hit major league pitching. Leon, on the other hand, has been with the Red Sox since 2015 and has really never been put under immense pressure to excel at his position. He was a surprise for sure in 2016, but I honestly can’t see him putting up those kind of numbers again anytime soon. The bottom line is, both Swihart and Leon are out of minor league options, so it would make sense to retain one over the other. In my opinion, that would be Swihart. Without using the great spring training he is having because that means almost nothing, Swihart is still three years younger, plays another position, and is under team control for two years more than Leon is.
This may come off as a hot take, but I think it’s safe to say Swihart brings more to the table than Leon does. There’s a reason he was once a highly regarded prospect, I think he deserves the chance to back up Christian Vazquez while also taking on a utility role if the Red Sox FO wants to get more at bats out of him.