Catchers suck. It’s not much of a secret that there’s very few backstops that are capable of standing out both offensively and defensively, and you’ll be content with a player that can excel at one. Enter Christian Vazquez, whose ascent to starter was delayed by Tommy John surgery in 2015. With Vazquez, the Red Sox know what they are getting; a poor defensive catcher that can make up for his deficiencies with his bat. Wait, WHAT? So far this season, Vazquez has been the complete opposite of who he was advertised to be, and it just doesn’t make much sense.
Vazquez entered the 2017 campaign with a career .233 batting average and just 2 home runs in 347 at-bats. This year, his .330 average is the third best among catchers with over 100 plate appearances, and his .798 OPS ranks sixth. Don’t let those numbers fool you, it doesn’t take much to realize that this offensive production is nowhere near sustainable. Vazquez has walked just three times all season, and still doesn’t have a home run. His batting average has swelled thanks to an absurd .413 BABIP. Fortunately, the Red Sox shouldn’t be depending too much on Vazquez’ bat. He was hyped up as “Yadi Jr.”, and any offensive production at all would be icing on the cake, in theory that is. For has much of a surprise Vazquez’s bat has been, his glove has been equally disappointing.
The one thing Vazquez has done well behind the plate is frame. He has rated as an above average pitch framer, but is by no means an outlier. Boston pitchers have enjoyed more success with Sandy Leon behind the plate. That can likely be attributed to the fact that Leon catches Chris Sale, but regardless, Leon has a 3.75 Catcher ERA compared to Vazquez’ 4.05. Vazquez has thrown out a mediocre 31% of would be base-stealers, while Leon has thrown out 42%. Uncharacteristically, Vazquez has looked like a little leaguer at times. His five throwing errors are tied for the most in the MLB among catcher, and only Kurt Suzuki has allowed more passed balls than Christian’s six. Because of Vazquez-dropped-third-strikes, Craig Kimbrel has recorded more strikeouts than outs in two of his last seven appearances. While DRS (defensive runs saved) for catcher is far from perfect, his -4 mark this season rates as the third worst for catchers. Is it laziness? A product of small sample size? Vazquez probably isn’t truly a terrible defensive catcher, but we know he’s not going to draw free passes or hit for any power, and a .400+BABIP won’t last too much longer. So who is the real Christian Vazquez? Only time will tell, but he’s certainly no Yadier Molina.