The Red Sox catchers really struggled at the plate for the first couple months of the season. Vazquez and Leon were both hitting under .200 for much of May and there were calls to replace them. Though they might never light the world on fire at the dish, they have both proven capable of hitting enough in the past to go with their work behind the plate. Lately, the two of them have been coming around with the bat.
Vazquez is the one we wanted to be the answer, with his cannon behind the plate making runners think about trying to steal. He had some setbacks along the way, but last year batted .290 and hit one of the season’s most memorable home runs. It looked like the Red Sox might have their long-term catcher. However, after Vazquez really struggled to begin this season, that was brought into question. There was talk of trading Vazquez to get a better hitting catcher in the lineup.
Don’t look now, but Vazquez has been hitting like last year since the middle of May. For the month of June, he batted .298 with all three of his season home runs and an .860 OPS. Stretching that out further, Vazquez was batting .174 at the end of the game on May 15th, the exact middle of the month. Vazquez proceeded to get a hit in six of his next seven games. This was the prelude to his hotter hitting, the sign that he was starting to zero in at the plate. He has been hitting the ball harder, evidenced by his three home runs in June. When Vazquez hits a home run, he really hits it. There are no cheap homers for this guy. He also doubled four times in June after only hitting five over the season’s first two months.
It isn’t only Vazquez who has been coming around since the middle of May. Leon played on May 14th, picking up one hit to raise his average to a lowly .170. Since that point a month and a half ago, Leon has batted .317 with three home runs and an .893 OPS. His BABIP is a bit unsustainable at .415, but impressive numbers nonetheless. He has started 18 games in that span and collected multiple hits in six of them. Narrowing it down further, Leon is batting .438 over the past two weeks. He has also hit a home run in back-to-back games.
This is a guy who has gotten hot for stretches, he batted well over .300 for much of the time he was in Boston two seasons ago. Should we expect him to hit .300? Of course not, but he can hit plenty for a backup catcher.
Would a guy like J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins look good in the lineup? No doubt, but the Red Sox realistically likely don’t have the prospects necessary to acquire him. The Red Sox also don’t need an All-Star hitter at every position, their lineup has already scored the most runs in baseball this season as it is. They also lead the league in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. They have done all that with the struggles at catcher in the first month and a half as well as Jackie Bradley Jr’s struggles.
In the season’s first month and a half, Vazquez and Leon had one home run and 10 runs batted in between them. Their combined slash line (avg, obp, slg) was .173/.223/.218. In the past month and a half, the same time-frame, they have hit six home runs and driven in 18 runs with a combined slash line of .295/.325/.483. That plays, especially in this lineup that already has plenty of firepower.
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