The Fenway’s Future series is designed to look into a player or two at each of the various levels of the Red Sox minor league system. So if any sort of logic held true, this would start with a look at Triple-A Pawtucket. And it usually does. But not this week.
Boston Red Sox of the American League East and Major League Baseball: Andrew Benintendi (OF)
He’s here! It’s happening! He got his first start on Wednesday night, going 2 for 3 with a strikeout and two singles! Everybody go pick him up in your fantasy keeper leagues! Exclamation points! Okay. Now that we got that out of the way we can return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Christian Vazquez (C)
The funny thing about the Sox farm system and current roster is that it’s hard to find space for a player from Triple-A to come up to the big league club and garner significant playing time down the stretch. Obviously, September 1 will bring call-ups as the roster expands to 40 players, but the point remains: barring significant injuries, this roster is pretty set. Especially considering the deadline addition of Fernando Abad, the return of Craig Kimbrel and potential return of Koji Uehara (please come back, Koj), the bullpen is almost entirely established. And at least one or two guys will be down on playing time if and when Blake Swihart and Chris Young return to what is already a very crowded outfield following the addition of Benintendi.
One player who seems likely to be an exception and receive playing time is catcher Christian Vazquez. Vazquez demotion Triple-A was a casualty of the options attached to his contract, and, more notably, a casualty of Sandy León turning into Ted Williams. While Vazquez’s defense insulates him and continues to make him valuable at least to some degree, his bat hasn’t caught up to his glove. And when Ryan Hanigan returned from injury, the Sox had little choice but to option Vazquez to Pawtucket.
So, with all that said, let’s check in on his time in Rhode Island. At the plate, Christian Vazquez has, well, continued to be Christian Vazquez. Since being sent down in early July, the catcher has played in 17 games and staggered to a rough .203/.257/.297 slash line. He’s driven in five and managed just four extra-base hits.
Vazquez’s moneymaker always has been and will continue to be his abilities crouching behind the plate rather than standing at it. And, on that front, his arm is healthier than it has his whole career after recovering from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015.
“I’m 100 percent. My arm is back, it’s healthy,” he said. “I’m working hard and I’m in the best shape of my career. Every day, I need to get better and I’m working to get better. But physically, I’m 100 percent.”
He’s not blowing smoke, either. Down at Pawtucket, he’s thrown out six out of nine would-be base stealers, according to John Wagner of MiLB.com.
So, while his bat continues to lag well behind a level that would make him a truly viable everyday catcher, it’s clear that Vazquez can still catch. Considering Sandy Leon’s somehow-still-above-1.000 OPS, how far that gets Vazquez this year remains to be seen. It seems likely that, at the very least, he’ll be at Fenway in September and get some playing time behind the dish. Given the comfort he seemed to have catching the knuckleball, maybe he returns to the role of catching Steven Wright for a month. Who knows.
It’s starting to look like we know exactly what he is, and unless snap throws down to first base are your favorite plays in baseball, Christian Vazquez is at least a little disappointing.
Obligatory (but quick) update on Yoan Moncada:
In his last 11 games, Moncada has hit baseballs at a more human clip. He’s batting just .217 with 18 strikeouts in 46 at-bats. Then he morphed back into the baseball alien that he is and fell a homer short of the cycle and scored four runs (!) in his most recent contest on Sunday. With Hanley Ramirez getting tests done on his wrist, we can theorize whether a Ramirez injury would mean a Moncada call-up. It doesn’t seem too likely, but there’s a chance we see Yoan at Fenway sooner than we thought.
The Rest of Double-A Portland: Luis Ysla (LHP)
With Benintendi gone, only two Red Sox top-20 prospects left in Portland are Moncada and shortstop Mauricio Dubon. Now, my colleague Cam Ellis stole Dubon for last week’s edition of Fenway’s Future, so in the interest of diversifying the piece, we’re looking into six-foot-one lefty reliever Ysla. The excellent SoxProspects.com lists Ysla as the team’s No. 23 prospect and third best at Double-A. He throws a hard fastball in the mid-90s, and uses it to rack up a hefty strikeout rate, sending 49 hitters back to the dugout in 46.2 innings.
While he projects pretty well and is highly regarded, Ysla has had some trouble this season, working to a 4.05 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in his 32 outings. He got roughed up in a July 26 appearance, allowing three runs in one inning of work. That said, in his past six appearances, Ysla has only allowed runs in that single one. Hopefully by the time we next check in on Ysla I’ll have figured out how to correctly pronounce his name.
High-A Salem: Trey Ball (LHP)
The Red Sox took Trey Ball with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft. Trey Ball might not be good.
The lefty has a 4.06 ERA and 1.62 WHIP on the season in Salem. Apologies in advance for this terrible pun, but Ball has thrown more than his fair share of balls: he’s issued 53 walks in 84.1 innings.
The month of July, to put it kindly, was not a good one for Ball. In six starts, Ball has allowed four or more runs in five of them, working to an ERA of 8.17. Walks have continued to be an issue, as he’s surrendered 24 of them in 25.1 July innings.
Finally, everybody can breathe a little easier now. We made it through the August 1 trade deadline without Dave Dombrowski throwing a Cuban Kitchen Sink offer for Chris Sale or any other front-line starter. Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi are still Red Sox prospects. Unless you’re not a weirdly big fan of Pat Light, you’d agree that the team’s farm system made it through the last two weeks of July effectively unscathed.
If you need me, I’ll be in my happy place imagining a Red Sox lineup that includes a Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi and Dustin Pedroia.
Photo by Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports Images