By Jonathan Usher – @Madduxman
Past, Present & Future
Throughout the winter, and in the spirit of Christmas, I will be sharing a weekly Red Sox Player Profile to help pass this long and cold – yet festive time, from Maine.
Ghosts of the past
For a couple years, this youngster was branded an absolute phenom, as he was going to be the next Joe Mauer. He could always hit and had a strong arm, and the sky was the limit – or so we all thought and hoped. The plan was to have him develop at his own pace, and have him behind the dish for the next 15 years. Obviously, the former high school shortstop has underachieved. In hindsight, putting him in left field for the (at least defensively) atrocious Hanley Ramirez turned out to be a complete disaster. While Swihart proved to be more than adequate in that brief stint, the ugly ankle injury he suffered while running into the wall in early June 2016 changed the course of his career.
Unfortunately, Blake struggled mightily this year due to a number of reasons, which appeared to really damage his psyche. The biggest obstacles were the lingering ankle issues, constant changing of positions and scenery, and his Chuck Knoblauch like yips trying to throw to 2nd base. Well, any base for that matter – even trying to get the ball back to the pitcher at times (especially in spring training) was excruciating to watch. His stint in the minors didn’t help his cause considering he finished well below the Mendoza line with a God-awful .190 BA in 212 Plate Appearances.
Still a young man, the switch-hitter turns 26 on April 3rd, just after opening day. Hopefully, he can stay healthy – AND continue to develop a rapport with at least a couple of the current starters. His playing time may be limited (at least at Catcher), as Vazquez is the clear #1, while Sandy Leon is eligible for arbitration and should be back as well. He is a definite (and in my eyes, a decent) trade chip come July 31st or next off-season, if Vazquez & Leon are healthy and performing adequately. His versatility and athleticism should boost his value, as there are whispers that he may cover at 2nd base until Pedroia is ready to come back – supposedly before mid-season. If he can succeed in the infield, then he may become a much better, and younger Brock Holt – or a next generation Super-Utility Player. Swihart is under team control through 2022, and has to prove everything all over again moving forward. I don’t think it’s a stretch to see a .290BA 15HR 80RBI year, if he ever got the opportunity (and stayed healthy enough) to play a full season.
My prediction for Blake Swihart is that he will be traded sooner rather than later, towards either a bat this off-season, or as a piece for a pitcher when someone goes down during the 2018 campaign.