Red Sox catcher/outfielder Blake Swihart will undergo ankle surgery in the coming days, manager John Farrell told reporters following tonight’s game against the Yankees (Twitter link via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald).
The operation figures to end Swihart’s sophomore season with just 19 games and 74 plate appearances in the books at the big league level this year. Early on, the 24-year-old former top prospect had a chance to cement himself behind the plate for the Sox but eventually found himself optioned back to Triple-A to work on his defense. Upon his return to the Majors he played exclusively in left field prior to suffering a severe high ankle sprain that ultimately led to the upcoming operation.
Swihart’s season will conclude with a .258/.365/.355 batting line. He collected three extra-base hits — bizarrely, all triples — and will head into the offseason with a cumulative .271/.321/.386 slash in 383 Major League plate appearances across 103 big league games. While Swihart was near-universally considered one of the game’s top 20 prospects prior to the 2015 season, he’s yet to tap into the potential that made him such a coveted component of the Boston farm system. With both Swihart and Christian Vazquez failing to definitively seize the catching job in Boston — Sandy Leon and Bryan Holaday are currently splitting catching duties for the Sox, with Ryan Hanigan on the disabled list — the long-term outlook behind the plate in Boston remains somewhat muddled.
Swihart has spent the bulk of the 2016 season either in the Majors or on the Major League disabled list and as such will accrue more than enough service time to take him past one full year of service. He’ll still have a minor league option remaining next season, so the Sox could give him further time to work on his game in the minors if he doesn’t grab hold of a roster spot in Spring Training. Boston controls Swihart through at least the 2021 season, and depending on how his time is divided between the Majors and minors next season, he could end up in Super Two territory, making him arbitration eligible four times.