Is Christian Vazquez becoming an All-Star catcher?

Rob Bradford
May 17, 2019 - 11:48 am

Christian Vazquez has his goals, as he articulated once again Wednesday night.

"I want to be in the Top 5 catchers in the league," he told WEEI.com, "and we’re working on that."

He certainly is.

The guy who wasn't even necessarily deemed a lock-down starter at the start of this season has emerged as a legitimate candidate to make the American League All-Star team. He admits that is also one of his goals. Now we should admit it might become a reality.

Vazquez enters Friday night with a .294 batting average and .838 OPS to go along with five home runs. More than 42 percent of the balls he puts in play are classified as "hard hit" which just happens to be a 14 percent uptick from last season. He is also putting the ball in the air more than ever before, another important piece of this whole equation according to the backstop's hitting coach.

"I just think it’s a matter of finding those streaks, keeping the ball off the ground a little bit," said Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers. "Am I surprised? Not really. He hit close to .300 that one year. He’s putting together consistently. I think a big part of it is using the whole field."

It is true that Vazquez has had some offensive success in the past, hitting .290 in 99 games, but that was different. There wasn't the threat of driving the ball like he has found now, as a .735 OPS would suggest.

And then is the defense.

Coming up as a young player Vazquez was classified as a great catch-and-throw guy. But then came Tommy John surgery, along with some bad habits upon his return. Last year's pop time (throwing the ball down to second base on attempted steals) was 46th overall among big league catchers (2.04 seconds). This year? He is fifth-best with an average time of 1.97. He has also narrowly surpassed teammate Sandy Leon in terms of pitch-framing, a feat considering Leon's reputation as one of the best in the business.

Vazquez has also thrown out six of the last eight runners attempting to steal on him.

So, about that All-Star Game ...

Vazquez still has some work to do, starting with showing Houston's Robinson Chirinos what's what this weekend. The Astros' catcher is having a standout season, hitting .268 with a .954 OPS and six homers. But there are others the Red Sox' backstop will have to leap-frog. Chicago's James McCann is tearing it up with a .366 batting average and .985 OPS, while Omar Narvaez of the Mariners is sitting with a .306 average and .891 OPS.

Then there is the Yankees' Gary Sanchez, whose defense is still less-than-acceptable (throwing out just two of 13 potential basestealers) but continues to mash the ball, having hit 12 home runs along with a 1.009 OPS. He has, however, managed just a .232 batting average when actually serving as a catcher.

There's a long way to go, but Vazquez has at least put himself into the All-Star conversation for the first time as a big leaguer.