Christian Rafael Vazquez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 195 lb.
- High School Puerto Rico Baseball Academy High School
- Debut July 9, 2014
Catcher Christian Vazquez reached the major leagues in 2014.
Vazquez was picked by the Boston Red Sox in the 9th round of the 2008 amateur draft. He was the fifth Puerto Rican drafted that year and the first Puerto Rican catcher. He was the second backstop taken by Boston, following Tim Federowicz in round 7. Scouted by Edgar Perez, Vazquez made his pro debut with the GCL Red Sox and hit only .190/.266/.207 while splitting time with Chia-Chu Chen and another catcher. In 2009, Christian played for the GCL Red Sox (.278/.366/.417 in 10 G) and Lowell Spinners (only .123/.250/.246 in 21 G).
With the Greenville Drive in 2010, Vazquez threw out 40.8% of attempted base-stealers and hit .263/.328/.337 in the regular season. At age 20, he returned to Greenville in 2011 and made big strides, producing at a .283/.358/.505 clip with 27 doubles, 18 home runs, 71 runs and 84 RBI. He tied for 10th in the South Atlantic League in home runs, tied Christian Villanueva for 7th in RBI and led his team in both of those departments. He was also 6th in slugging. He did not win SAL All-Star honors as Evan Gattis was picked behind the plate.
Picked for the Puerto Rican national team, he was 5 for 17 with two walks in the 2011 Baseball World Cup. He played error-free defense and threw out 2 of 4 attempted base-stealers. In the 2011 Pan American Games, he was 5 for 12 with a double and 3 runs as one of Puerto Rico's top offensive performers.
In 2012, Vazquez hit .266 in 81 games for the Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, then played 20 games in AA with the Portland Sea Dogs. Combined, he hit .254/.344/.369 with 21 doubles and 7 homers. In 2013, he again benefited from a late-season promotion, this time starting at Portland and ending up in AAA with the Pawtucket Red Sox for one game. In the Eastern League, he hit a solid .289 in 96 games, with 19 doubles and 5 homers. He was named a league All-Star, like he had been in the Carolina League the previous season.
Now considered one of the Red Sox's top prospects, and having overtaken Ryan Lavarnway as the presumptive "catcher of the future", he spent the first half of the 2014 season in Pawtucket, where he hit .279 in 66 games. On July 9th, with the team in last place, the Red Sox decided to designate veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment and to promote Vazquez in his stead. He was in the starting line-up that night against the Chicago White Sox, going 0 for 3 in a 5-4 win; pinch-hitter Daniel Nava batted for him in the bottom of the 9th, doubling in the tying run, before Brock Holt followed with a game-winning single. He played 55 games for Boston, hitting .240/.308/.309, with 1 homer and 20 RBIs. He was the favorite to be the Red Sox's sarting catcher in 2015 heading into spring training, but an injury got in the way. After six Grapefruit League games, he was sidelined by an elbow problem and had to undergo Tommy John surgery, putting him out of action for the entire season.
Vazquez was back healthy in 2016, and in spite of Blake Swihart having had a fine rookie season in his absence the previous year, he re-claimed his starting job after making his season's debut in mid-April and kept it as Boston played very well over the next few weeks. He was starting every day, except when knuckleballer Steven Wright was on the mound, in which case veteran Ryan Hanigan stood behind the dish. As he showed no ill effects from the surgery, the Sox began to use Swihart in left field in order to give their other promising young catcher some playing time, but Swihart suffered a season-ending injury soon afterwards. However, competition came from an unexpected quarter late in the year as career back-up Sandy Leon suddenly found his bat after being called up to Boston in June and ended up getting a lot of playing time down the stretch as he kept his average above .300 until the end of the season. For his part, Vazquez hit .227 in 57 games with 1 homer and 12 RBIs, but was not used in the postseason as Leon made all three starts in Boston's loss to the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.
In 2017, Vazquez was back sharing the catching job with Leon, with Swihart seemingly out of the picture. He was hitting better, with an average in the .280s at the end of June. On June 27th, he ended a home run drought that had lasted over a year when he connected off Hector Santiago of the Minnesota Twins with a runner on in the 2nd inning of a 9-2 win. His second homer of the year was truly spectacular, coming on August 1st against the Cleveland Indians. In a see-saw game, the Indians had just taken a 10-9 lead in the top of the 9th, and Indians closer Cody Allen seemed on his way to recording a save when Mitch Moreland managed to make it to first base on a dropped third strike with two outs. With two men on, Christian drove one of Allen's pitches over the fence in left-center for a walk-off three-run homer that put Boston a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees in the AL East standings. He finished the year at .290 in 99 games, with 5 homers and 32 RBIs as Boston repeated as AL East champs, barely outdistancing the Yankees. He went 2 for 6 in the postseason, splitting duties with Leon, but Boston was eliminated in four games by the Houston Astros in the Division Series.
He was back in his familiar role in 2018, sharing catching duties with Leon as the Red Sox managed to remain ahead of the Yankees in a close race during the first half of the season. His hitting was not as good as in previous seasons, however, as his batting average was just .213 in 60 games, with 3 homers and 14 RBIs. Leon was hitting slightly better, but in any case the Red Sox had plenty of firepower in their line-up and could afford to let its two catchers concentrate on the defensive side of the ledger. On July 8th, however, he was placed on the disabled list after breaking his right pinkie finger. He had to undergo surgery and was facing extensive time on the sidelines.