The Red Sox let Jarrod Saltalamacchia head to the Marlins this off-season, and didn't outbid the Yankees for Brian McCann or the Phillies for Carlos Ruiz. The reason for all three of these non-moves was prospect Blake Swihart, who is very likely the future at catcher for Boston for years to come. Assuming, of course, his potential is actualized at the big-league level.
After a strong 2013 campaign, most prospect analysts and scouts feel Swihart is up to the task. MLB.com's team of Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo are no different, with the pair ranking Swihart the fifth-best catching prospect in the game.
He's not fifth because there are a lack of options, either: he's ahead of Christian Bethancourt, whose glove is so good that he might end up with the majority of playing time with the Braves this season despite his bat, as well as highly touted first rounders from the 2013 draft Reese McGuire and Nick Ciuffo. MLB explains what you have to look forward to:
Swihart threw out 42 percent of would-be basestealers in 2013, leading the Carolina League. He has improved his game management and uses his athleticism well behind the plate. A switch-hitter, Swihart makes consistent hard contact from both sides of the plate. His swing is more geared for line drives now, but he projects to have average power. He has toned down his aggressive approach somewhat, though he wouldn't be confused with a patient hitter. He is faster than most catchers and isn't a base clogger.
Swihart isn't likely to be excellent in any one aspect of his game (besides maybe throwing out runners, but that's overrated due to its easily understood nature relative to other aspects of catcher defense). You can see, though, that he's a capable baserunner, should have some power for the position, should be capable of making consistent, quality contact, and has improved his defense to the point where it's less of a concern his bat will need to go elsewhere. He's exactly the kind of well-rounded player who could be underrated, but whether he's rated properly or not won't change his actual production, which should be substantial when he's ready.
While he didn't make the list, another Boston catching prospect, Christian Vazquez, didn't miss by all that much. When asked where Vazquez would rank among catching prospects, had the list gone longer, Callis stated that he would have fit in with the 11-20 group, and cited his "strong arm" and "promising bat." We all knew about the former -- it's much of what Vazquez is known for, even if there's much more to his defensive game -- but the fact that yet another prospect analyst has come out to say that Vazquez's bat shows promise is a good sign.
A tandem of Swihart and Vazquez in Boston from 2015 or 2016 onward would mean a lot to Boston's payroll, as they would both be cost-controlled, pre-arbitration assets, and also for the future of the position, as it's hard to need or find more from backstop than what these two, in theory, should produce together. There are no guarantees with prospects, but this is all still encouraging.