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November 1, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Top 40 Season in Review: Blake Swihart

#7 Blake Swihart, C
2012 Teams: Greenville Drive
2012 Stats: .262/.307/.395, 7 HR, 53 RBI, 17 2B, 6 SB


Pre-2012: Swihart was taken with the 26th overall pick by the Red Sox in the 2011 draft and signed on August 15 for an over-slot bonus of $2.5 million. The high school catcher out of New Mexico was widely regarded as a top-15 talent, but a strong commitment to the University of Texas and high bonus demands allowed him to fall to the Red Sox. Because he signed on the last possible day, Swihart only played two games in 2011 for the Golf Coast League Red Sox.

2012 Season in Review: Upon first glance at his relatively underwhelming season stats, one might think the 2012 season was a disappointment for Swihart. But first impressions can be deceiving. One of Swihart's greatest assets that led to his high draft position is his athleticism, which includes his ability to switch hit. Because of this athleticism, he was a two-sport athlete and his high school baseball team often played him at other positions. Players beginning their first full professional season often take a while to get acclimated, and Swihart was no different, hitting .178/.253/.274 in April.  

But after that start, he began to make adjustments, hitting .284 the rest of the way. His bat has always been what endeared scouts to him, with a smooth swing from both sides of the plate, easy bat speed, and good backspin which gives him average or better power potential. While the numbers may not reflect that potential, it is still very much there.

Swihart started the season relying largely on his athleticism to get by behind the plate, as he had played catcher only sparingly in high school. He possesses a strong arm which he showed in throwing out a respectable 31-percent of attempted base stealers. As the season progressed, the total package of his defensive game began to round into shape, as he started to become a better receiver and blocker. He took the first step in each of these areas, and also began to fill out his lower half, which was quite thin for a catcher entering the year.

2013 Outlook: The Red Sox will almost certainly move Swihart up to High A Salem to begin the 2013 season, where he will continue to work on both sides of his game. On offense, he has the bat speed to succeed, but will need to begin to work on his pitch recognition and strike zone discipline, especially with off-speed pitches. Repetition is a key aspect to this development, and playing at a more advanced level will mean he will be challenged by pitchers with more advanced offerings and better pitch sequencing. 

Defensively, he needs to continue to work in all areas and refine his game-calling ability. His ultimate position is still to be determined, although that is not necessarily due to strong concerns about his defense. If Swihart's bat develops quicker than his defense and proves to be too promising to be held back, then his athleticism could allow the Red Sox to move him to any number of positions; third base was one possibility thrown around when he was drafted. If he proves he can be an average or better defensive catcher, then leaving him there would maximize his potential and make him a more valuable player in the long run. They will certainly leave him there for the foreseeable future, but his athleticism gives the Red Sox options as he advances up the system.

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Will Woodward is a Staff Writer for SoxProspcts.com.  Follow him on Twitter @SPWill.

Photo Credit: Blake Swihart by Kelly O'Connor