WEEI>On Demand>>Minor Details Ep. 76: How catchers Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler forced their way to prospect status

Minor Details Ep. 76: How catchers Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler forced their way to prospect status

Mar 24, 2014|

The Red Sox careers of Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler started in obscurity. Vazquez was taken as an unheralded ninth-rounder out of high school in Puerto Rico in 2008. Butler was undrafted in 2009 before signing with the Sox out of the Cape Cod League in 2009. Both have defied their amateur pedigrees, advancing steadily to the point where they're expected to split the workload in Triple-A as the first line of defense in case of injury to either A.J. Pierzynski or David Ross. They join Minor Details to explain how they reached this point, while also breaking down a number of Sox pitching prospects, including Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa.

Transcript - will not be 100% accurate

When the -- extracted Blake why heart in the first round of the 2011 draft they did with a clear vision that he could be their catcher of the future. That was not the case for the two catchers will be ahead of swipe card in AAA this year to start the season. The careers of Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler starred in obscurity. Vazquez was taken as an unheralded ninth rounder at a high school in Puerto Rico in 2008. Butler did him one better being undrafted in 2009 before signing with the Sox for just 101000 dollars out of the cape league in 2009. Both have defied their amateur pedigree is advancing steadily to a point where they're expected to put the work couldn't AAA. As the first line of defense in case of injury tighter AJ Pierzynski or David -- While Vasquez has the bigger upside in look like a future starting catcher in the big leagues Butler might be the more likely early season call the necessary. The 27 year old is coming off of a strong 2013 season and to market. Where he hit 262. With a 350 on base percentage in fourteen homers in just 84 games while earning high marks for his ability to lead a pitching staff. Andy showed solid catch and throw skills. In his third big league spring training Butler is now knocking on the door a fairly striking development for a player who entering his first camp in 2010. Had no real standing in the organization. All Astros for an opportunity to comes returning the following year. After -- on the wolf for that season. And you know in game and let my course take its -- -- there and and it just happened or go formula I this is news that I had I had pretty much wants Janssen and one opportunity. To to make an impression and I had to make it that's. You have an unusual career path you were undrafted coming out of college. You've been through a lot of stuff in college or part time catcher there you underwent Tommy John surgery so your playing time there. You you didn't get the Upton to start there and just signed for I believe you went to the deeply -- played pretty well made an impression on the Red Sox. And you know Europe like I'm ready to go outside for just about anything but wet. To what made you decide that it was time to turn pro. That you didn't wanna kind of further your career in college that point oh yeah younger and all of that mean opportunity presented itself and I never had the opportunity for so I figured. -- I can't pass up an opportunity like that does sound it's so. So like afternoon. So that indicates you've you've made an impression not just -- spring but going forward -- progressed very steadily up through the system. You know you've been getting promoted one or two levels every season that you've been the you've been a professional. Is there but there are kind of landmark. That allowed you to realize how far you would comment in your career that you would you know that you're maybe getting added to the Major League roster maybe it was something else. Along the way that really told you. -- you know. This this was more than just kind of pursuing a dream you know Christmas is actually like becoming you know kind of tangible and meaningful. I think after after my first full season and realized this is this is actually -- -- this isn't just a game that you kick you with some friends and but it's sexier provisions attempting experience even more serious than you ever -- before and right to the roster and that that. In the neck and solidified more -- here in this long long you know. It is the three men. Six the five days you're. Except in the years that some -- so like. -- I mean this a year round. And I think it roster and after that first policies and realize. Is it does is it different being a guy who -- professional ball without receiving a big signing bonus you know I mean. Monthly salaries are terrible right on a monthly basis they are terrible. You you know it's not like you had a huge nugget that you could just kind of you -- just kind of sit on how challenging is it just you you know you have to constantly take stock of whether or not it's financially realistic to be a baseball player. You know you give -- those first few years. You know he's stepping in -- Very year that you receive this is going to be financially. Able -- to do it it's actually. You know worth pursuing other career. You know I I gave it I gave my few years and and everything kept going on for a -- moved forward so. I never give up on and and and and in that things never change Michael's favorite changed him. And this just keep going. Daniel Nava talks alive regularly about how he remains mindful of his unusual career path out kind of informs. Everything about his perspective on where he is currently in his career. Do you feel the same -- And it's always in the back your mind I got here and I think that kind of drives you every day captured yesterday as. And yeah I mean you're definitely mindful of in terms of where you have gotten your development how close do you feel you know fit at this at this your third big league camp. You spent all of western Kentucky -- The assessments of your play and you've got I think you got your first steady playing time and a couple of years there. Right in the -- -- have been promoted up to the major leagues you're an everyday guy you performed really really well during that time I think that you know you have a stretch where. You're just kind of going crazy too -- you're hitting homers every couple games -- so. Did that have have you kind of been able to gauge how close you feel to be Major League ready whether or not you feel you are mentally ready right. Mean it's really not my. You know it's not my choice like -- really I can't really gauge that it is not my hands I just -- Not have to worry about that and stuff and and let the people. But people Ghassan and ponder that idea of it comes through playing -- should win every day. That is really -- and use them. You can do better data and content. And just get better and try to drum play Saturday night. This came word is way too much stuff to worry about them if I -- -- at least next. Is that made easier by being a catcher you know someone who's like success is -- Solely individual isn't just individuals that you might be in the profile is -- has got so much going on you on time or the things to worry Beazer. Or. Or anything house I think guys -- to. As a catcher you know how to how do you split up your time how much of your time and energy do you do you feel like you devote to just. Getting to you know getting on the right page -- with your with the pitchers as opposed to focusing on the individual part of developing. Which is more hitting it off obviously -- a technical us. The -- I mean that's driven a nuisance they want you know my first spring training that you know pictures from person. -- -- from that -- that it was driven into us it's. It's that's that is -- percent of my effort into it into making sure that guy on the mountains going to be better every pitcher every day here. Whatever the case may be in and I know everybody years as a catcher. And feels the same line. Whether it's from Pierzynski or -- to. Anybody down enough and able. By feels the same -- entered -- everything they got into two in Baghdad that are on the -- or whatever he can take him. Sixty. Talking to Dan Butler it's this was really interesting off season -- Saltalamacchia was a free agent that lent itself to conversations about the Red Sox -- future. But they're going to do immediately as well as kind of a little bit longer time. So that that brought that kind of brought you into the conversation interesting way because. You know as as they were trying to as the Red Sox are trying to figure out how they would proceed I heard a number of people you know there were there were some people who would say. But -- butler's team bothers someone who should at least be considered as mutually catchers someone's. You know who should be should be viewed that thing. At the same time there was also when. There there was also significant conversation especially after -- -- -- assigned to when you do. Half at the -- HIV is much appreciated. That about where they're catching future of the Red Sox lies with a lot of conversation about. The status Christian Vazquez in Blake's wife heart. In your name wasn't that you know your name -- wasn't brought up in the same -- there's. How would you describe what the southeast you know. I realize you you try to not played GM right. But you know that said did you allow this offseason as him you know to keep it kind of takes stock of where you're standing in the organization at all. You know opinions. You know as as the as that offseason conversation was unfolding. And I mean. Mean look there's always going to be someone underneath here pushing you forward every day. Whether it's whether it's Christian -- Laker. Or there's there's got to sign last year that it you know -- and I just gonna stay stay down and short season hold their whole career mean they're gonna -- -- to assume. That's what's great about the game is that there's so many players. That can take your job or or push you forward and make you better in any aspect that makes it that makes it more fun mixing competitive within the club house. It's it is interesting though because furtherance. At the beginning of your Red Sox you know -- Red Sox career. There was probably a conversation about how there wasn't a catcher of the future in the Red Sox system. And now you know it's like oh wait there are all these different guys -- -- being beaten to the future has that transformation like been apparent to you. Demi via community six guys and -- -- -- that it -- -- probably play in the big -- Mean obviously yet to 22 regulars in Beijing. I mean any anyone could play and they return now. And. Probably be successful. Talking to Dan Butler who's been last year in Pawtucket. Dan have interest in talking to you about some of the pitchers who were on who you worked with on the staff last year because these are guys who. You know we've seen so we've seen some of them in the big leagues and limited exposure not all of them so obviously you probably have the best vantage point to talk about. The kind of stuff that you can see. So I guess let's start with let's start with a couple guys who did. Kind of shuttle between the big -- in time in AAA. Alan Webster and ruby -- Rosa. You know as it has as a guy you know what stands out where where -- where do you begin to describe the stuff of those two guys. And they both throw our first Paul and I both instinctive. Like anybody I've ever seen and and you know they're both gonna go out there trying to pitch to contact him again chosen don't pitch to contact. And when they do it's it's pretty special. But now it's got a great change. And did play along is sinking and sinking fast. And rubies get you to get Jamie's gonna break balls well and and so all that stuff is they get. Three plus pitches. Allen was interesting because he started out the year unbelievably intelligent. And he kind of hit he kind of hit a speed bump in the middle of the season when much -- there was there were a lot of hit batters in -- in one stretch in the season his right handed batters I think. And I know at least the Major League level there's appeared where it seemed like he was becoming a little bit past all the laughter. Did you see any of. Like going on with him last year. Imus on it those sessions for a summit hustle -- is -- getting tossed a couple of times. Those were ridiculous -- profile account yes -- word. You know he was and you name it. Yeah I mean you get it loses ball and -- of the morning news want to just took off on me. This is tougher time but once he did minded -- game news he's back to being now lives -- -- Based on their frequency had a commitment socket. Were you surprised to Brandon -- success that he had -- two weeks. Now on me as a workhorse this huge pain throws our two of these guys get through which is yours if our breaking -- along with -- -- and that's. And -- down down down zone. When he says that success is no reason why he couldn't be doing what you did last. You saw into the Renato at the end of last year what stood out about his stuff. Sunnis and then -- I -- the same person you know your same building. And they both rooms and six Lawton. They both got big curve balls in the power curve balls and that's what they go to an answer out pitches. And the command Anthony through last -- -- is was really impressed with both his breaking ball in his. -- using to get swings and misses when he got to talk to because you know his strikeout rate took a little bit of a dip when he went from protected from Portland to protect. You can swings and misses on the news or use exchangeable more than ever seen him use him and -- consuming sectors on that as wells a breaking ball. Bring walk up that play a little bit more happiness lies. This strike goes down I mean it took -- out. You've been with him in Portland the previous year correct how drastic was the difference you know he had been injured obviously in 2012 but was it like seeing him. You know being back behind went to see what is up with like in 2013. And I was that together we saw in 2013 -- guys and everybody talked about it. It's good to see and be healthy and and you know get his confidence back -- I just went back after him and and was it had a really good years. One final question to in the -- -- back -- you so but as in terms of your development figuring out. What you do in order -- kind of complete the finishing stages of making yourself putting yourself in position to be ready when when a column arrives. What what -- focused on what what aspects of your game are you most locked in on trying to improve. The same -- as the -- and you're trying to learn Stefan and -- -- get to know the big leagues that -- as I can -- it's. As much as much as possible and and so that -- when you come up and not everybody. And so so and that has been trying -- -- way and then you know just in his new attorney here this season and feeling good -- healthy feeling healthy and and Santa. Christian Vazquez turned the heads of anyone associated with the Red Sox and spring training last year when he front runner attempting to steal and an amazing time. Of less than one point eight seconds roughly two tenths of a second better than Major League average but then he was just putting himself on the -- getting ready for an important yearn to play. That 2013 season was a landmark went for Vazquez potentially positioning him to be a starting catcher in the big leagues by next season if not sooner. The 23 year old showed considerable offensive improvement in controlling the strike zone blocking more than he struck out and hitting 287. With a 375 on base percentage. He only had five homers and 25 extra base hit but he has sneaky power as shown by an eighteen homer season back in 2011. Vazquez has shown enough offense that he looks like one of the top pitching prospects in the minors given his potential for gold -- defensive skills. It's no accident that Vazquez has that kind of reputation. Behind the plate he grew up in the catching rich culture Puerto Rico and while some kids and all their time imagining game winning homers were standing at shortstop. Does has dreamed of -- day when he could gunned down runners during his training towards that outcome. I work a lot to do that noon when my feet and to a host of you know. And jump in real fan letters. And love -- -- room. I mean you grow up but he grew up kind of with that motivation right you've been a catcher for your entire life -- the when I started catching eight years old. As soon. Hello coaching. Now you're really you're from Puerto Rico of course which as you know -- a time when -- growing up there have been you know Yvonne Rodriguez would still -- -- like you know rate and a right in the middle of it Benito Santiago. Some Del -- two was there. Both. Why is there such a catching cultured -- minutes -- -- I don't know I don't know -- -- We have a lot of dictation monopoly on big leagues -- -- a lot of hall of fame. You don't you don't reveals you know witness. It. The best Kutcher and whom Fareed go. Out of my -- above them you immediate tape. Is that tape. You know date he teach how to cash of two totaled two basis. And we was that take every day like three wood -- three days a week really and he's from -- Rudy is. And -- that I have in my house to. Was only a couple time. Let's get this -- since of course the. But you I mean what you pick up watching it or do you already have it all kind of committed about where you. Conduct -- on qualitative and this is good to know reminding. The -- of subdued in the game. Have you had the opportunity to meet guys like pudge at this point -- like Sandy Alomar in glory goes the gonorrhea and it'd inquiry so deeply. Two years ago in the winter -- league and oracle. He play again and it'd. -- -- of what was that like I mean where you kind of star struck this as the guy who watched it is still a shock you know. Was my my -- there. Is it fun. Can you so the other cool thing about you know according hypocritical it's not just that there's this like long line of great catchers that comes from there but it sounds like there's a real culture. Bonds between catchers are coming up there. You've also had the opportunity to work out with I think that you worked out with the Molina Brothers are both similar and what was ultimately imploring of it is known slave owners use the great catcher. And her -- known different things as -- late. Men and little thing -- so mean to get better. And we'll talk prologue we like articulate three times a week. Only catching. It's it you know it's interesting that you had this exposure to guys who are you know big leaguers you know because I'm -- -- that's been really useful for you to get. Feedback from them. You started out you know. There are some other catchers team this system in in the minors who had him who had more who had kind of a bigger stage. You -- draft I think in the ninth round in 2008. You were seventeen years old so you were down which I think a lot of people forget. -- you know in prospect in a lot of prospect rankings you weren't you weren't known how important was -- have. Guys with big league experience who can tell you you have some really really good it is important skills that could have a chance to. -- -- -- -- There have been a lot of the main thing to me is atrocious so. You don't was just so -- news. -- wrong way you know. I told myself now I think I'm the best pitcher in the -- on the -- analog to get better every day. You know. At a new you know not only in us the last three years -- And noon. I mean Molina and you into your -- and you know well it's who you know did that. You know trust yourself and -- now. What's been the most important step for you to kind of push yourself Florida as a professional you know. I've I've heard some people say for instance that you worked you know that you worked harder early in your career. To get yourself and better president in better physical changes so that you would be in a better position to be athletic behind the plate. What what would you say has been the most. Because you know you were ended -- -- -- Greenville if memory serves in two straight years there and in the second year that was when all of a sudden you know. There is Christian Vazquez being everyday catcher. Hitting eighteen bombs and all of a sudden you're starting to pay a little bit more attention in the process. Yeah I think you know on the lists don't nortel's opening to get strong. Aaron award in the -- of those here remember awards every day you know mine mine mine -- body. To get better human being strong. And I maintain that routine salute them today atlas. How much control does the catcher have over the game in how much do you like that part of that responsibility. If things. Along that he goes you know you're you're from -- people in from you. And in the typical known good games to win and you know you a lot of responsibly. There and decided in Mountain View unmanned -- -- and a few close. Do enjoy it more when there are no base runners or when her face front runners on a couple of based on alone. Hello everybody else. -- that ever did you in trouble late do you you know are you ever. I mean you you pick off a ton of guys you gunned down a lot of guys on their you have great stolen base caught stealing numbers. But it do you ever kind of like come out of your crouch so you know you have for so eager to get guys the commander -- a little bit early. -- -- everybody to go -- builders -- -- on. A little WL. -- they're giving him all the green light -- your editor editor giving them the signals fitness I guess steel -- -- it has Edmonds have have you been aware of the idea that you've become that you started to become kind of a more known prospect you know that people. But certainly you know you're so -- -- up like baseball America list and in this of the various publications have you been aware of that. No none of -- my game on the phone. I don't read in some ways and means and -- competitive tensions play my game films including the game unclear. -- Was there a point in your career where it started to dawn on you that it's you know but it could be very realistic for you to emerges and every day mutually catcher or did you always have confidence. No my segment that's my. Mine value I have played you know a lot of gains and end of the second year in France and the second year. Dozens you know I think we can do this you know -- and who have. Can be merely play if I want you know. They -- every day and I haven't you know the skills to play. As as a -- yourself down your -- series of breaking down an expert yourself down how how would you describe yourself -- -- approach it right now. Last year. -- was it known what you mind that. I get more walks and straight man you do that that was like it shifted that a lot -- first like Gloria the book food you know. Patient and in the late. -- You know working -- counts you know. You know. Did that there in the pitcher's pitch you know -- -- accounts that they'll know. Where you did you follow what. Was going on with the Red Sox Major League catching situation this offseason you know where they going to signers of the going to bring back the guy for two years are they going to sign. A guy like Brian -- for three years you know. And they end up signing AJ Pierzynski for one year which which has some you know -- -- you know kind of which has some implications for you. Did you follow that at all a little bit no. So. Later. On a wasn't so you. A play you know it came to a close to play every day. Wrong. And then too much that things than two million I heard and -- -- By and not too much. How. Different doesn't feel being in spring training you know. You're going to be in AAA you're going to be you know you're I mean the major leagues are kind of right there right. You don't want to root for anyone to be injured but it's it's closings. You know both -- between that and between India idea did you know it. We don't know with the Red Sox catcher is starting catchers in 2015. It doesn't start to feel like the major leagues -- here 401 the yield now more can -- though my news. I'm hungry to the national offices and announced. Let's talk a little bit about some of the pitchers the cup last year. Spending almost all of -- -- Portland before you got tired got to get a little bit of a taste some familiarity with the -- at the end of the year. That was a good pitching staff in Portland seem like pretty good stuff or -- still wrong and it would laws -- -- aren't. The stuff and local school arms then flown in this. The first one who really kind of I mean both at the start of the year both Brandon Workman and Anthony were not oh -- dominating out of the gate. How would you describe their -- mixes it -- The best and I think and it that they -- that as a -- mobilized and all of August oh. Did and didn't. What does so what is were not used to get swings and misses. Scurbel approval to use talent host Rachel it is. -- And a -- studied as it is here is that like a hammer that he's going to you know try to get guys chaser too as he dropped that first very close right now and downs and include the history. I mean what's it like just having you know -- going to be that day you know he's what 67 -- You know what's here with a two with his fastball as a result of that size in late two elevated at a blog whose whose whose rights. And he couldn that these and -- Yes right. About work and how would you describe him. Machine and while it is great pitchers -- he's known. Gruden and act -- -- -- -- mound. And I think that bit Clinton. Must've been fun to catch him in Portland especially because they're freezing back there -- he's getting through seven innings and about seventy pitches that. Is this -- A low low it. -- -- And then you know Matt Barnes who spent the year with and I think even went up to protective of the same time -- him basically. How would you describe his stuff -- he had his results were different from those other two guys right now word that you are a lot of humans get open now. Well it -- like toward Iran get better everything is a hundred pitches the -- In its -- -- in these -- -- -- and he going to be attention feature. What did you see from his curve ball everyone talks about how -- curve ball took kind of a work in progress and how do you see it from -- -- -- -- yeah in the beginning was strolling with a horrible but in the loves -- Two months. What month held him -- the horrible and he did better a lot yeah degree but he he he changed it who did nothing. It inaudible. So all of those guys fastball curveball change who has the best fastball off them. We're not. Renato bug -- com is the best herbal. And -- have done it better -- you know that three. That's good you know you are picking favorites to get to say one of them is the best in each of those. You get to work with Henry -- side -- towards the end of the -- what what was his stuff like. The best pitcher that not the best pitch. Did -- exchange of moment. And he let it -- be detained a corner and on you like to -- in with the right it is. Good pitcher. How you know how impressive was to see how well he performed give him do now is just coming up at -- -- the -- and -- -- -- I'm -- throw. I've noted and. It in the yes it differs did he get in the first outing I think was the sixth inning. Who was alone in its own men throwing a lot of strikes. But is fastball like because it doesn't seem like -- of a lot you know those other guys throw hard those other guys -- mid ninety's stuff that's not him dozens and on he -- to a you know. Going in you know -- site pain goes in the corner also elect towards in the corners mole -- throw -- -- Occupying the corner. And then you also got to work with -- with tricked Britain how did you see him progress over the course of the time it is and he did that all laws he throws. Mourning him in with him. And -- if he was known pawn in this on this -- iron in the count on that -- a lot and you said that Brandon Workman is the best though it is is the best of all those that you -- For media he follow -- you know he he'd be in bed and you know he did in the quarter that quarter of this year. And -- when a loved him. Yeah it works quick that's always got a beta -- I. That is in the Columbia -- featuring future. So how exciting is this to be a part of a Red Sox organization that you know you're on the Major League roster of a World Series winning team were typical thing right beta. That like the team that was the best in all of baseball said that one of you were one of their forty best people and all of their organization. And tests have been a part of that and now to be part of of this group you saw what -- you saw the talent you know you've seen the town coming up with you. And now they're getting close to the majors as you are -- how exciting a time is this for you in your career. -- So aside marijuana weighing in on -- lurches. With him would -- when we're down and it's it's cool when a school you know that Google no love when them. And his side. Have you have you thought through whether or not you'd be able to catch you know the pitcher jumping into your arms if you know. Here's your enemies you're strong enough to handle it and if I mean if -- if it's like Coronado or someone. You know that's that's up a big dude that it is pretty challenging task -- -- pitcher jumps up and it -- to get back doberman. I'm -- at the Littleton. You a lot of those so -- -- technical equipment so you have a little closer as you know none of none of the big started its. And they did you know they did -- -- good food there. You can epithet all right -- delisting bed and and over and over your digit. Christian good talking to thank you so much you'll.

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