The Boston Red Sox gave up on veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski yesterday, designating him for assignment and promoting catching prospect Christian Vazquez to take his place on the roster. Who is Christian Vazquez?
Well I'm glad you asked.
He was drafted by the Red Sox in the ninth round in 2008, from high school in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. He struggled initially with the bat, unable to get over the Mendoza Line in rookie ball in '08 or the New York-Penn League in '09. He made some progress in the South Atlantic League in 2010 with a .263/.328/.337 line for Greenville, then exploded in 2011 with a .283/.358/.505, 18-homer campaign that had Red Sox fans buzzing.
He hasn't hit nearly that well since, running up a .275/.360/.371 mark in 116 Double-A games and a .275/.335/.381 line in 67 Triple-A contests. The big problem here has been lack of power against advanced pitching. There has also been considerable slippage in his eye in Triple-A. However, while I don't think it will happen immediately, I suspect that Vazquez will be at least a decent hitter in time. There are similar profiles who developed very nicely in their late 20s; Yadier Molina comes to mind.
Vazquez's glove will buy his offense some time. Depending on the source, his glove is described as either "very good" or "one of the best defenders in baseball." He has a good arm: strong, accurate, catching 40% of runners this year and 35% in his career. He's mobile behind the plate, with quick reactions. He's been vulnerable to errors and passed balls at times, but he's cleaned that up this year. He has a reputation as a field leader and is said to be a great favorite of the pitching staff for his ability to handle both the intellectual and physical demands of the position.
At a minimum, Vazquez will have a long career as a backup catcher. However, his defense is good enough that he'll get a chance to start even if his hitting needs more time to blossom.