Red Sox Minor-League Catchers Review, Part One

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Red Sox don't have star catchers lining up at every level, but they do have plenty of depth at the position these days.

We've reviewed the Red Sox farm system, level-by-level, position-by-position, and now it's time to finish up our look at individual positions with looks at catchers and relievers. First up, backstops: there's one worth talking about at nearly every level of the system, so we'll split it into two parts.

Alixon Suarez, C

Year Age Tm Lg Lev PA 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
2012 17 Red Sox DOSL FRk 278 15 4 4 2 3 39 41 .270 .399 .425
2 Seasons 545 22 4 6 2 4 78 86 .248 .384 .358
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2012.

Suarez was signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent following the 2010 season. Suarez didn't turn 18 until after the cutoff date, making this his age-17 campaign. Like other rookie leagues, the Dominican Summer League is a low-offense environment, but that didn't stop Suarez from putting up some great numbers. His .270/.399/.425 compares very well to the league-average .243/.337/.330, and he was younger than your average DOSL player, as well.

Sox Prospects rates Suarez as the #51 prospect in the system, though, it's not clear if that's due to lacking in ceiling, or his being as far away from the majors as anyone in pro ball can be. That puts him fourth among catchers, now that Ryan Lavarnway has moved on from the realm of prospectdom with his extended September stay in the majors.

*****

Blake Swihart, C

Year Age Tm Lg Lev PA 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
2012 20 Greenville SALL A 378 17 4 7 6 2 26 68 .262 .307 .395
2 Seasons 384 17 4 7 6 2 26 70 .257 .302 .389
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2012.

Swihart debuted in 2011 after he was selected 26th in the draft, but it was for just two games and six plate appearances. Now 20, and in Greenville rather than the GCL, Swihart started out poorly -- enough so to ruin his season line -- but built on that as the season progressed.

Month At-Bats OPS
April 73 527
May 76 737
June 59 779
July 78 744
August 50 822

It's not that the mid-700s is a fantastic place for Swihart to be, but for a 20-year-old without experience in college ball -- one who has to deal with learning the two swings of a switch-hitter -- it's not a bad place to be, either. Throw in that catchers tend to take longer to develop, anyway, given the rigors of the backstop gig, and this, April aside, is a solid first campaign for Swihart. The more intriguing test will be what he does when he moves up to High-A Salem, assuming the Sox push him there after a full season of Low-A.

It's difficult to find footage of minor-league players, especially at low levels, but MiLB.com has a look at a nice piece of hitting by Swihart from April, one that netted him a triple:

*****

Adalberto Ibarra, C

Year Age Tm Lg Lev PA 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
2012 25 Salem CARL A+ 296 15 1 0 8 4 38 39 .275 .386 .344
3 Seasons 470 20 1 0 12 5 69 67 .274 .397 .332
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2012.

Ibarra has yet to hit a homer in his professional career, an oddity that sticks out even more when you see he doesn't pick up many other extra-base hits, either. This was at its worst prior to All-Star break this year, as Ibarra hit all of .266/.396/.294 in the 35 games and 109 at-bats logged then. He picked it up afterward, though, putting together a .283/.379/.394 line in the 40 games after the break. It's not something to celebrate, necessarily, but it's Ibarra moving in the right direction.

Why talk about a 25-year-old at High-A? Ibarra is a Cuban import, who wasn't signed until the summer of 2010. That alone puts him behind schedule, but throw in that he's also a catcher, and it's easy to see why he's still just at Salem. It hasn't helped that his bat, expected to fit in well with Fenway's dimensions, hasn't shown itself to be much besides something he holds while he waits to draw a walk. You wouldn't be wrong to throw some hope his way given his second half, though, but he'll have to do this again (or better -- preferably better) against more advanced competition in the future.

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