The Red Sox have announced that catcher Christian Vazquez will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow tomorrow. The surgery, which will be performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., will sideline Vazquez for the entire season.
The loss of Vazquez is a significant blow to the Red Sox, who anticipated enjoying the 24-year-old’s presence as their regular catcher in 2015. Vazquez, praised by most as one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball, made his big league debut in 2014 and batted .240/.308/.309 in 201 plate appearances. Despite that lack of offensive production, Vazquez provided quite a bit of value, throwing out an incredible 52 percent of opposing base-stealers and rating as one of the game’s best pitch-framers, per both Statcorner.com and Baseball Prospectus.
Boston was seemingly prepared for this outcome, as they acquired switch-hitting catcher Sandy Leon from the Nationals earlier this week. The out-of-options Leon is excellent at controlling the running game himself, though he lacks the overall upside of Vazquez. Leon will join Ryan Hanigan, whom the Sox had acquired to serve as a backup but will now see regular action, as half of the team’s catching tandem.
Of course, the eyes of all Boston fans will be carefully monitoring the progress of top catching prospect Blake Swihart as he finishes off his Minor League development at the Triple-A level this season. Swihart, one of the game’s top overall prospects, is widely considered to be Boston’s No. 2 prospect, behind Yoan Moncada. The Phillies have repeatedly asked for Swihart in Cole Hamels trade discussions, but the Sox have refused to include him in a deal. With Vazquez now out for the season, one would imagine that the Sox will be even more reluctant to part with Swihart.
Obviously this procedure is more common among pitchers, but there are still position players who have had to undergo the procedure in recent years. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters had Tommy John last June and will likely open the 2015 season on the disabled list, while Twins top prospect Miguel Sano underwent the procedure last March and missed the season but has been healthy all spring.