Red Sox minor league notes: Blake Swihart is taking off the gloves; Travis Shaw gets his kicks; a below-the-radar prospect emerging?

February 25, 2014 - 6:17 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If Blake Swihart's projection holds true -- a potential above-average to All-Star switch-hitting catcher whose athleticism and hand-eye coordination permit him to make a considerable impact at the dish -- then he'll be reasonably well positioned for future endorsement opportunities. However, in one respect, it appears that the 21-year-old is willing to pass on such potential earnings. Swihart is among the only Red Sox minor leaguers who eschews batting gloves. Though he grew up in a relatively cold-weather climate in Albuquerque, he's long preferred to go without gloves while taking his hacks. "I've just never used them. Never," said Swihart. "Sometimes it hurts, but that's just what I'm comfortable with. A couple times last year, it was raining in Salem and I had to use batting gloves. It didn't feel right in the game. ... I do it sometimes in the cages, but that's about it. I just like the feel of not having batting gloves." As for the potential sacrifice of a batting glove endorsement? "I have a Nike deal," said the 2011 first-rounder. "I hope they don't get too mad that I don't use them." A couple of additional notes on players expected to open the 2014 season in the minors: -- Travis Shaw has been working out solely at first base in big league camp, though he expects that he'll likely take some grounders back at third once reassigned to minor league camp, if not before. He's also employing a substantial leg kick that he began to incorporate last year, while he was struggling in the middle of the year with Double-A Portland. Shaw hit .221 with a .342 OBP and .394 slugging mark in Portland, but after the season, he worked back at home in Cincinnati to gain comfort with the timing mechanism, meant to allow him to stay back on the ball. By the time he arrived in the Arizona Fall League, Shaw said that the leg kick felt natural, and he plans to use it going forward after an AFL campaign in which he hit .361/.452/.705 with five homers and six doubles in 17 games. Shaw said that, growing up, he didn't ever use a leg kick, even in imitation of big leaguers. But he's happy with the early results of the mechanism. "When I was in college, I always used to model my swing after Adrian Gonzalez a little bit," said Shaw, who in 2012 showed considerable promise for his plate discipline and ability to drive the ball to the opposite filed before becoming pull-happy in his Portland struggle in 2013. "But I'm different now." -- In minor league camp, shortstop Javier Guerra has continued to build on a strong Instructional League to assert his prospect status. The 18-year-old had a modest performance in the Dominican Summer League, hitting .248/.356/.290, but he shows impressive defensive actions at shortstop and a clean swing (geared for line drives) with good barrel control. A number of team evaluators have spoken highly of the impression he's made in minor league camp. Because he's so young, there's tremendous performance uncertainty about the Panamanian shortstop (who bats left-handed), but he represents the profile of a player who could make a significant jump in prospect status in the coming seasons.