To deem a young player or prospect as “untouchable” can sometimes backfire.

Injuries occur. Plateauing performances before hitting the majors happen more often than not. Other opportunities present themselves and make that player less valuable to an organization. Any number of scenarios can turn a once-untouchable player into a relative bust, or simply expendable. 

So far, none of that has happened with Blake Swihart.

Swihart is a top-20 prospect across the board—according to Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus—and has become quite the household name in baseball circles. Not because he is the Boston Red Sox’s top prospect, or possibly the best catching prospect in the game, but because he is part of the reason the team still does not have an ace in its rotation and the main reason why Cole Hamels is still with the Philadelphia Phillies.

This has become a well-known hang-up, but baseball writer Jayson Stark was the latest to report that a deal for Hamels, which has been speculated about for months now, will not happen if Swihart is not part of the return package. And the Red Sox refuse to include him.

That means a deal is not done and probably won’t get done as long as the Phillies demand Swihart. With both sides holding their ground, it is not surprising, as Stark reports, zero headway has been made in trade talks between the two clubs.

“I hear it all the time, though. It’s kind of hard not to hear it,” Swihart told reporters, including Stark, of the rumors involving him in a trade for Hamels. “At the end of the day, though, I play for the Red Sox, and I want to play for the Red Sox. I like being here, and I like playing here.”

Clearly the Red Sox are doing everything to make sure that happens. And for his part, Swihart is doing a good job of proving the organization correct in how it values him.

The team optioned him back to Class AAA Pawtucket last week, which was expected. Swihart has played in only 18 games at that level and struggled. Going into his age-23 season—he turns 23 on April 3—he clearly needs more at-bats and seasoning before joining the Red Sox.

But during his time in the Grapefruit League this year, Swihart continued to make scouts drool, no matter what organization they represented. He went 7-for-18 with a home run, a walk and three strikeouts.

His defense is also developing as he is in his fourth year as a catcher, and Red Sox pitchers enjoyed throwing to him in camp, according to Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald.

Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters:

Blake came in and wasn’t just being happy to be in big league camp, but he came in to compete. He knows he is getting closer to becoming a major league player. When that time comes, who knows?

And I think there are some areas that we recognized he has to continue to develop, and that’s probably as much on the receiving side, some blocking. That’s ongoing maintenance for any catcher. But I thought he showed well—very well.

That Swihart is a catcher makes him more valuable than if he were, say, a second baseman or left fielder. His position is a premium one, and not one that every organization has success developing. That scouts see him as developing into someone who can play the position at the major league level, plus the fact that Swihart can hit, gives his overall value a massive boost.

But there is another interesting part to this equation, and one that makes us wonder if Swihart will be an “untouchable” for much longer.

Christian Vazquez is 24 and expected to break camp with the Red Sox, splitting time behind the plate with Ryan Hanigan this year. He has a 12-gauge arm and can frame a pitch beyond his experience level. And while he does not have the offensive upside Swihart does, he did post a .336 OBP in 270 plate appearances at Pawtucket last year, and his .308 OBP and 19 walks in 201 big league plate appearances shows the potential to get there for the Red Sox as well. 

Realistically, his peak is probably a lighter-hitting version of Yadier Molina, who is a workout partner for Vazquez during the offseason.

Of course, if Vazquez develops into that kind of defensive force, the Red Sox can always move Swihart to first base, but that is a discussion for another day. Currently he is a catcher with huge upside and massive trade value.

And this spring training did nothing to diminish that. It also solidified the organization’s decision to not include him in any trade talks this past offseason, and it is likely to hold that stance in the near future.

Swihart’s “untouchable” tag is an earned one, and this season it will be up to him to keep it attached while proving he deserves a major league promotion sooner rather than later.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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