During the summer before his junior year of high school, Red Sox prospect catcher Blake Swihart had a baseball coach tell him more doors would open if he became a switch hitter.
“And he said, ‘once you start catching after that, more doors will open,” Swihart recalled.
He heeded the coach’s advice. The 21-year-old was named 2013 Red Sox minor league Defensive Player of the Year, an award that has to be quite satisfying for him considering the short time he has spent at catcher.
Swihart is one of three high-ceiling Boston prospect catchers along with Christian Vazquez and Jon Denney and is expected to begin the 2014 season in Double-A Portland.
Both Swihart and Vazquez, who is expected to begin ‘14 at Triple-A Pawtucket, are getting closer to the majors and are the two main reasons the Red Sox are better off finding a one- or two-year stopgap at catcher rather than signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three- or four-year contract.
Swihart was listed as the No. 1 catcher in the 2011 draft by Baseball America, and he received the richest bonus Theo Epstein ever gave a high school draft pick while GM of the Red Sox.
A natural right-handed batter, Swihart seems to be quite the quick learner from left side of the plate and at catcher.
Swihart began switch hitting almost right after it was suggested.
He caught for the first time at the 2010 Perfect Game National Showcase at Tropicana Field. A high school center fielder and shortstop, he then caught two games as a senior because scouts were eager to see him behind the plate.
“I didn’t even have catching gear,” Swihart said about his experience at the Perfect Game Showcase. “One of the coaches said, ‘Hey, put on this catching gear and go throw to second base.’”