To account for Vazquez's loss, the Red Sox went and acquired Washington Nationals backup catcher Sandy Leon. Since he was out of minor league options, Leon was expendable for Washington who already has Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton. Leon is a plus defensive catcher, but his offensive skills are not up to the level that most expect from Swihart.
Leon isn't expected to play a bunch, but the projection system ZiPS suggests that if he were to play in 83 games, he would be worth about 12 runs above replacement level (1.2 WAR). About all of that value would come from his defense, projected to be about 13 runs above average during that time. While that makes Leon perfectly serviceable, Swihart's projection is much sunnier: 2.1 WAR over 113 games, with his defense being worth about 15.5 runs above average. Leon is only projected for a 69 wRC+ and Swihart a 79 wRC+. But it's not unrealistic to expect perhaps a bit more offense out of Swihart, although ZiPS defensive projection for Swihart is roughly the same as Christian Vazquez's had been. But it's not unrealistic to believe, from both a projection and a scouting standpoint that Swihart could be a league-average starting catcher right now.
All that being said, Ryan Hanigan may not be an offensive force, but he gets on base and is one of the better defensive catchers in the game.. Therefore, the Red Sox don't really have any incentive to rush Swihart quite yet, giving him time to prove himself at AAA Pawtucket. But if Hanigan proves ineffective and Leon doesn't hit at all, it's not hard to foresee Swihart coming into the majors by mid-2015. The trick is to not let Swihart sit around a lot - the Sox will want him to be a regular starter once he's in the majors. But 2015 could be Swihart's year, as he may be the best option in the system right now. Still, letting him prove himself while seeing if the Major League options can do the job seems the wisest decision.
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