There is little question who the top catching prospect in baseball is, but there has been plenty of debate as to how much time he needs before being ready for big league action. After Christian Vazquez went down for the year in the spring due to Tommy John Surgery, and with Ryan Hanigan hitting the DL with a fractured right hand on Saturday, the Boston Red Sox have decided the time is now.
Coming from the opposite of a baseball hot bed, there hadn’t been another player selected in the first round out of the state of New Mexico in 21 years before Swihart was selected 26th overall in 2011, he is as valuable a prospect as there is in baseball. He plays as premium a defensive position as they come and is an incredibly rare five tool catcher.
He has thrown out 39% of would-be base stealers in his career, and just last year stole eight bags himself while being caught just once. A natural right-handed hitter, Swihart took up switch-hitting in high school and has been very good. He carries a minor league slash line of .287/.341/.428 and is continuing to improve with the bat.
Behind the plate, he is still somewhat raw when it comes to calling a game, but his athleticism shines through with his footwork and a very strong arm. Vazquez was considered one of the best defensive catchers in the minors last year, and some scouts made the argument that Swihart was just as good, if not better.
He can spray line drives all over the field which should allow him to be a .280 career hitter in the big leagues and 15-20 home runs is certainly a realistic expectation. When hitting from the right side, he is the type of hitter who will play pepper with the green monster and could average 25-30 doubles a year. He does not draw a whole lot of walks, mostly because he is supremely confident in his bat control that if there is a pitch he can do something with, he puts it in play.
Despite having a very good spring, he is still raw at the plate and that confidence in his bat control may hurt him some early against big league pitching. Don’t be surprised if he hits just .250, and his strikeout rate may jump up to about 25% early on, it was just 17% in the minors. Catcher is certainly one of the weaker spots on the Red Sox roster, but Swihart should be an All-Star game regular in a short time.