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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. Part one was published already.
Vazquez was the primary backstop at Salem until getting a late-year promotion to Portland. His overall line at Salem belies what he actually accomplished there, if you're of the mind that failure followed by success is a positive for minor-league hitters. Vazquez hit just .155/.202/.167 in 21 games and 84 May at-bats, destroying his season line unless he could rebound with some serious offense the rest of the way.
Vazquez rebounded by hitting .309/.413/.529 with three homers and six doubles in June, then followed that up with .338/.453/.549 in July. After struggling to collect just five extra-base hits in the first two months of the year, Vazquez had now bunched 18 together in two months' time, earning him a ticket to Double-A to finish out the year. He didn't quite stick with Salem long enough to fix May's damage entirely, but it was close enough to get him to where his bat deserved to be.
Portland was a slog for Vazquez, but given the time it took him to become acclimated to Salem, that's not unexpected. His 2013 will go a long way towards determining whether he's just another catcher in the system, or if he's a legitimate prospect to pay attention to. For now, Sox Prospects has him ranked #35 in the system.
Dan Butler, C
Dan Butler doesn't have a great bat, but when you're a solid defensive catcher, who might be a backup in the bigs someday, that first part isn't as important. He hit well enough in Portland, and Pawtucket was too small of a sample to bother with, but came out looking all right overall -- you'd like a higher on-base percentage, but it's hard to do that when you hit .233 over a stretch of any length. As said, though, the bat isn't great -- it's never going to be exactly what you want out of a backstop.
But, Butler is likely the next catcher to be on the 40-man roster, assuming the Red Sox don't pick someone up this off-season to backup Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He's safe as a backup who can call a few games, throw out some runners, and field well behind the plate, but he's not a game changer. Backup catchers who are major-league capable are important, though, and can work in the game as long as their bodies and skill allow. The Sox could do worse than Butler as their emergency, short-term catcher.
Lavarnway had his most disappointing campaign at the plate in 2012, and not just because he hit .157/.211/.248 for the Red Sox in 46 games and 166 plate appearances. His time at Pawtucket, sans a single month of dominance, was much less inspiring than his past work. That featured far more power, including last year's organization-leading homer total. There is room for optimism, though: Lavarnway caught more than he ever has before, with 25 games started at catcher on the Sox, and another 80 at Pawtucket. Not only is it the first time he's caught more than 100 games in a year, it's the first time he's been behind the plate for more than 66. This is his first season as a full-time backstop, and it might have played into the lower numbers on offense. Catching is time-consuming, and tough on the body.
Lavarnway wouldn't be the first promising rookie to fall flat on their face in their first extended taste of the majors, either -- teammate Dustin Pedroia was equally anemic when he came up at the end of 2006. Talent won out in the end once it received a boost from experience, though, and the Red Sox are hoping the same goes for Lavarnway. As it is, he likely cost himself the chance of unseating Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the Opening Day, starting catcher for the 2013 Red Sox. But he'll have plenty of opportunities to learn at the major-league level, catching major-league pitching, even as the club's backup.