EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 23, 2013

A look at Boston's minor league catchers

By Christopher Smith

---- — The Red Sox have high-ceiling prospect catchers in their minor league system.

Baseball America ranked Blake Swihart, who is with Single-A Salem, the 72nd best prospect in all of baseball before this season.

Swihart, 21, was drafted 26th overall in 2011 out of Cleveland High in New Mexico.

He is a switch hitter who entered Friday batting .281 with a .361 on-base percentage, .438 slugging percentage, 2 homers, 12 doubles, 5 triples and 21 RBIs in 178 at-bats.

“Blake has a good swing from both sides of the plate and continues to improve his ability to recognize pitches,” said Ben Crockett, Red Sox director of player development. “He is very athletic on both sides of the ball and shows much arm strength behind the plate. Defensively, he is still relatively new to catching so he continues to refine his game-calling, receiving and blocking, as well as ability to run the pitching staff.”

Christian Vazquez, who turns 23 on Aug. 21 and is with Double-A Portland, was Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 when he threw out 33 percent of attempted base stealers.

“His quick feet and release allow his arm strength to play as effectively as it does, as well as allowing him to be an above average blocker,” Crockett said.

On May 22, Vazquez was batting .298 with a .412 on-base percentage. But since his average has slipped to .233 and his OBP has dropped to .350.

“Christian has shown quite a few positives in Portland, but continues to work on the consistency of his approach at the plate on a day-to-day basis,” Crockett said.

Jon Denney, who the Red Sox drafted in the third round, 81st overall, out of Yukon (Okla.) High this year was ranked the 20th best prospect in the draft. Thus, he might be a steal.

His MLB.com scouting report stated: “Denney has the complete package for the position, with advanced receiving skills and a plus arm. He has some power in his bat as well and showed off his offensive skills at the Area Code Games over the summer.”

The Red Sox announced that Denney had been signed Friday.

“I think a comparison on both (Denney and Swihart) is that they both had success in the showcases during the summers leading up to the draft,” said Gus Quattlebaum, Boston’s assistant director of amateur scouting.

“I think the biggest difference between high school and college catching and why it is so much harder (to evaluate) with high school guys is that they’re not catching exceptional stuff on a regular basis at the high school level. Now, they maybe able to handle that in the showcases where we may get to see it in glimpses where they are catching a Trey Ball (Red Sox’ first-round, seventh overall pick).”