Blake Swihart’s time is coming. But he won’t be rushed.
The team’s No. 1 prospect ‘ and one of the top prospects in baseball ‘ is on the cusp of the big leagues. He’s everything a club could want in a developing catcher, a switch hitter with legit power potential, a live arm, and an athletic build that’s reminiscent of Giants MVP Buster Posey.
The Red Sox have resisted including Swihart in deals for established talents like All-Star left-hander Cole Hamels of the Phillies, because they believe he has the chance to be something special.
The 22-year-old has only played 18 games at Triple A, though, and the Red Sox have learned from the problems that a number of their prospects faced last year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Swihart spends most or all of this season in the minors. Quicker isn’t always better.
“That’s always a goal, but no matter where I’m at, I need to just play where I’m at and do what I know I can do,” Swihart told reporters on Friday at Harvard, where he was one of 10 prospects to take part in the team’s rookie development program. “There’s always opportunities. You’ve got to take them in stride and take advantage of them.”
There’s plenty to like about Swihart, who hit .293 with 13 homers and an .810 OPS between Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket last year. Drafted in the first round as a raw high school talent out of New Mexico in 2011, Swihart has slowly but surely improved while ascending through the minors.
He has grown as a game caller, and last year he threw out an impressive 45.6 percent of opposing base stealers (31 for 68).
“Just the knowledge of catching,” Swihart said when asked how far he had come. “Like you said, I was new when I first came in. Now that I’m more grown into it, I guess you’d say, I’ve developed in overall aspects. I know how to call pitches now. I know how to get chemistry with my other pitchers. That’s what it takes, is get your chemistry going and get your feet wet and now everything’s running smoothly.”
Farm director Ben Crockett knows the team struggled integrating Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts into the lineup last year. Without speaking directly about Swihart, he said the club plans to be sensible about promoting its prospects, while also cautioning against being over-cautious.
‘There were a lot of areas that, organizationally, from our end and on the field, it could be done better,’ Crockett said. ‘We try to learn from that. At the same time, we’re not going to be shy or hesitate to trust the next young player to make an impact and to have an important part on the team.”