We saw this story before, one year ago to be precise. Betting on younger players is a big risk that could stunt their growth and ultimately not provide them with the tools of success right away.
Last season, the Boston Red Sox kept outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. on the team after an impressive spring training. He struggled mightily out of the gate and was ultimately sent down to get more seasoning.
Xander Bogaerts also struggled after being called up too early. The same could be said of Mookie Betts, whom the Sox called up early due to injuries. The Red Sox were right to not make the same decision again.
Blake Swihart, a top catching prospect for the Red Sox and the 17th-rated prospect according to Baseball America, had a similar story this season. In a impressive spring, he hit one home run with five runs batted in and a slash line of .333/.385/.500. Swihart is the answer at catcher going forward but with only 18 Triple-A games of experience under his belt, he needs more time to grow before getting reps at the major league level.
Current starting catcher Christian Vazquez will start the season on the 60-day DL, thus making people wonder if Swihart is the immediate answer. With Vazquez out, the Red Sox will rely on Ryan Hanigan and newly acquired Sandy Leon to platoon the position. Both are career backup catchers but have been given the opportunity to break out in a role for the Red Sox amidst Vazquez’s absence.
Meanwhile, Swihart will get the reps that he needs as an everyday catcher in Pawtucket. It allows Swihart to grow at a regular pace, thus not stunting his growth or putting any pressure on the 22-year-old prospect. Keeping Swihart in Triple-A for as long as possible will only help the Red Sox going forward.
Even with Vazquez’s injury, the Red Sox are smart to avoid rushing Swihart like the others. In all likely scenarios, we will see Swihart in a Boston uniform by season’s end, but it will be on his own pace.