Welcome to Boston.com’s Sports Q, our daily conversation, initiated by you and moderated by Chad Finn, about a compelling topic in Boston sports. Here’s how it works: You submit questions to Chad through Twitter, Facebook, email, and any other outlet you prefer. He’ll pick one each weekday to answer, then we’ll take the discussion to the comments. Chad will stop by several times per day to navigate. But you drive the conversation.
I hope the Red Sox find a way to keep Blake Swihart around this year. He should be the best hitter by far among their catchers and he has a strong arm. If he got regular playing time, wouldn’t he be a great candidate to be their breakthrough player this year? – Joe V.
I’m with you, Joe. The Red Sox have done no favors for Swihart through the years. They rushed him to the majors in 2015 – he’d played just 18 games in Triple A before that season – then completely wrecked his development path in ’16 by putting him in left field, where he got hurt. Then he was basically the modern day Roger LaFrancois for part of last season, barely getting any playing time at all.
He’s not that young anymore – he turns 27 next month – but I still think of him as a promising prospect because his development has been interrupted so often. He’s a .256/.314/.364 hitter in 597 plate appearances, with 8 homers. With steady playing time, I bet he’d be in the top half among American League catchers in terms of production.
I don’t know that he will get that time, though – the Royals sure could use a catcher right now with Sal Perez injured again. So my actual breakout candidate for the Red Sox is Rafael Devers. He’s a tremendous talent who had some huge hits in the postseason, and he’s in much better shape. And if Alex Cora actually does plan to bat him third even semi-regularly, well, it would be hard not to put up good numbers with Mookie Betts in front of him and J.D. Martinez batting behind him.
Devers is my breakthrough player, hardly a bold choice, but one I believe wholeheartedly. But what does everyone else think? I’ll hear you in the comments.