The Boston Red Sox are entering the 2017 season as one of the premier teams in the American League and one of the preseason favorites to capture the pennant and return to the World Series for the first time since 2013.
In addition to a starting rotation captained by Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello and a promising young core of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, and others, the Red Sox will embark upon spring training in a unique situation: having three candidates for the daily catcher’s role.
Perhaps the lead candidate to serve as Boston’s everyday backstop is Sandy Leon, who relished in a breakout campaign last year. In 2016, the 27-year-old Leon was granted a promotion to the big-league club after Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart landed on the disabled in early June, and Leon made the most of his opportunity. Across 78 games in the final half of the year, Leon slashed .310/.369/.476 with 26 extra-base hits and a 123 wRC+.
In the opening half of the year, Boston’s catching duties were partially handled by Christian Vazquez, a 26-year-old hailer of Puerto Rico. Vazquez posted a meager .227/.277/.308 batting mark across 184 plate appearances, but his real selling point is his defense, as Vazquez maintained a 35 percent caught-stealing rate across 438 and 2/3 frames of fieldwork with a .996 fielding percentage.
Swihart suffered a left ankle sprain in June and was sidelined for the remainder of the season, as the ailment required surgery to repair. The switch-hitting Swihart sustained his season-ending injury while playing left field for the Red Sox, but he did manage to log 52 innings behind the plate in addition to the 113 and 2/3 he tallied in left field — which he won't play in 2017, per reports.
With Leon, Vazquez, and Swihart as the top options to catch for the club, the Red Sox will be making spring training — a span that will likely determine who will land the daily role behind the plate — even more meaningful, as it’s unlikely that Boston would carry more than three backstops on their Opening Day roster. So, even though there’s only one starting role, competition will heat up to be a member of the big-league bench.