Since Jason Varitek first showed signs that he was beginning to age several years ago, Red Sox fans have been clamoring to identify the team’s catcher of the future. Prospect followers have bet on a number of players to come up the ladder -- from those since traded, such as Tim Federowicz, to those still around like Ryan Lavarnway, to those still farther down the system, like Christian Vazquez. But the team may have finally found that future stalwart in 20-year-old Blake Swihart.

Swihart was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft with the pick Boston received as compensation for departed free agent Adrian Beltre. Though Swihart was considered one of the top catching talents in that draft, it was not a position at which he actually had much experience.

“I started practicing catching my junior year [of high school],” said Swihart at the Jimmy Fund’s recent New Stars for Young Stars fund-raiser. “But even my junior and senior year, I played shortstop in high school. So I didn't start catching until I got drafted really.”

Swihart has the distinction of being the highest-profile Red Sox draftee to receive an over-slot bonus before the current collective bargaining agreement took effect, which greatly curtailed such tactics. The high schooler out of New Mexico was a superb raw athlete who would have likely gone higher in the draft were teams not scared off by his strong commitment to the University of Texas. Boston was able to buy Swihart out of that commitment though by giving him a $2.5 million bonus, well above the slot recommendation for the 26th overall pick.