Spring Fever: Pitchers and Catchers, Literally

*Over the next few days, I’ll be breaking down the parts of the 2015 Boston Red Sox. In this edition, I’ll be going over the pitching and catching situations.*

SPRING TRAINING GOT ME LIKE CHARLIE KELLY DOING THE BUTT DANCE.

charlie butt dance gif

But really, spring is (kinda) here! The snow’s (far from) gone, the temperature is (very slowly) rising, and baseball games are under way (even though they don’t count)! Visit this post again in mid-March and read without the parentheses.

With spring right around the corner, it’s that time again to assess this new Red Sox squad we’ve got on our hands. This is a team that’s gonna win the division, which is huge considering the bloody and gory axe murder that was the 2014 campaign. Baltimore is the only team that can challenge them but they fell off big time, especially with the loss of Nelson Cruz. Also, the health of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters isn’t guaranteed and their pitching is awful. The Yankees are complete garbage and so are the Rays, and while the Blue Jays got some nice (hair) pieces over the offseason, they’re the Blue Jays, which means two things: A. they’ll never get enough to push them over the hump, and B. they’ll find a way to shoot themselves in the foot. So by the process of elimination, we should be good to go.

CATCHERS

It’s very tough to find an elite catcher nowadays; the position is so thin. If you don’t have a guy like Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, Yadier Molina, Salvador Perez, or a healthy Wieters, then you can’t expect a whole lot of overall production from behind the dish and you just have to hope you find a good game manager.

And that’s exactly what you need to look for from Christian Vazquez. He’s certainly not too special, and he’s gonna be the #8 or #9 hitter; that’s OK, you don’t need him to hit 30 homers and drive in over 100 runs. Vazquez just needs to do pretty well defensively, stay above the Mendoza line, and be an alright catcher and he’ll keep his job. If he can hit fairly over .250, then he’d exceed expectations. He hit about .240 in limited action last year, but the good news, though, is that he’s young and you can only expect him to get better.

Ryan Hannigan is the backup catcher, and he’s in the same boat in terms of production. He’s been playing since ’07 and can be streaky, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of consistency. But no matter; he’s your backup guy, what do you want from him?

Back to Vazquez. He is, more or less, a placeholder for Blake Swihart, the #17 player and highest rated catcher in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list for this year.

“But hey, Fitzy,” you might be asking,” didn’t you just say that Vazquez is young and is on the rise?”

Sure, that’s true. But if you’ve got two young catchers who can lead you for years to come, it seems pretty obvious that the team is trying to figure out which one it’s gonna be. Time will obviously tell on that choice, and maybe you trade the one who isn’t gonna be the #1 guy when that time comes, but Swihart still has some work to do down in Pawtucket, especially in terms of developing his power. Vazquez is the guy, for now.

PITCHERS

Thiiiiiiis is where things might get a little shitty.

If there’s one thing holding this team back, it’s the pitching, or lack thereof. Clay Buchholz as your ace? Child please.

Unless it’s 2010 or 2013 pre-injuries Buchholz, then this can’t be too good. Sure, he’s a nice pitcher, but not a #1 starter by any stretch of the imagination at this point.

And that’s the thing with this rotation: it’s got some pretty good arms, but just no one great. No surefire ace to hang your hat on. Porcello, Miley, and Kelly, no matter which order you throw them in, are a pretty good 2, 3, and 4 punch, and Masterson isn’t a bad #5, (not like you need a big #5 starter) but in a league where the pitchers are getting more and more powerful, you need a stud to compete for a title. But a silver lining for the rotation is the fact that the offense might be able to bail them out of a lot of jams; their run support will give them enough wiggle room.

Do you stick with Clay, a glorified #2 guy, and hope for the best? Or do you go out and try to trade for someone like Cole Hamels, one of the best southpaws in the MLB? The Phillies sure as hell don’t need him, and he just straight up doesn’t want to be there, but the Sox are saying that they’re not really looking to grab him. Why?! Yeah yeah you need to give up some big prospects, maybe Bogaerts included. But c’mon, the Sox are better than this. You can content for a World Series with the team you’ve got right now. I’m all for building some of these young guys, but at least entertain the offer.

The bullpen should be alright, I’m not that worried about it. Koji will do Koji things, Tazawa and Breslow, if they can figure it out, will be nice to have late in games, and Workman is back in the pen and can develop into a great tool. Also, Henry Owens might come up late in the season, and that makes me happier than Peyton Manning in Hawai’i for the Pro Bowl. He’s our top rated pitching prospect, and a lefty, and while he isn’t ready for the rotation yet, he will be in the future; he could be a star.

So pretty much, the goal of the 2015 Red Sox pitchers and catchers is: don’t fuck up!

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