September 18, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway (60) hits a two-RBI double in the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Lavarnway and the Disappearing Bat

I have always been a Ryan Lavarnway fan. I pulled for him in the minors, and I was all ready for him to replace David Ortiz as the next great Red Sox slugger. And then the Sox had to go and call him up to the Major Leagues.

Lavarnway has always crushed Minor League pitching, to the tune of a career .286/.377/.504 line, not to mention being at least serviceable behind the plate. His defense was seemingly the last roadblock in his ascension to being a full-time Major League catcher. He was given the opportunity to catch full-time in Pawtucket, and that was apparently the push he needed to improve, as he was named the best defensive catcher in the International League just last year.

No one is really sure where the AAA version of Lavarnway goes whenever he gets called up, but it certainly disappears. He has appeared over matched in both his cups of coffee with the big league squad, mustering just a .172 batting average in just under 200 at-bats.  Granted he has put on some stunning displays of power, just look at his 2-home run performance on the 27th of September, 2011, but hasn’t ever been able to reproduce at a consistent level in the major leagues.

September 30, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway (60) throws down to second base but cannot get out Baltimore Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth (not shown) in the seventh inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Red Sox 6 – 3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Watching Lavarnway play reminds me of another catching prospect who can’t find his way in the majors, Jesus Montero. While Lavarnway was never as highly touted as his pinstriped counterpart, all the same basic tools are there, mediocre defense, excellent hit and power tools, and an absolute inability to perform in the Majors. While the Montero- Michael Pineda trade hasn’t really panned out for the Bronx Bombers, it looks like the Yankees might have gotten wise about Montero’s similar lack of success in the Majors.

Lavarnway looked to be the heir apparent to Jason Varitek’s throne, but with the acquisitions of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach, and David Ross, his path has been blocked for the better part of 3 years. Having been called up in Alfredo Aceves’ stead, Lavarnway doesn’t look to be getting much, if any, playing time this trip to Boston. But if he continues to rake in Pawtucket, the Red Sox will call him up in the event of an injury, and I seriously hope he can pull it together then, because he is running out of chances to prove himself on the big stage.


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  • John Fahrer

    He was projected by as a backup catcher/DH, so there’s a good chance the FO has never viewed him as a starter.

    His home run power has disappeared with only 11 home runs (nine in AAA, two in MLB) dating back to last season.

    Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sox deal Lavarnway at the deadline if they find a good return. They could very well just re-sign Saltalamacchia or sign another FA like a Brian McCann and go with him as a starter for a few years until Blake Swihart is ready.

    Backup-wise: Christian Vazquez should be ready by the 2015 season when David Ross departs as a FA.

    • Harry Burnham

      Yeah, I definitely agree, I will be surprised to see if they can get anything worthwhile for him, given his poor major league performance, Maybe as part of a package though?
      I’m really looking forward to the potential of a Vazquez/Swihart tandem, hopefully they can hold down the position.
      Thanks for Commenting!

      • John Fahrer

        No problem.

        It’s still a long way from declaring Swihart the catcher of the future. But it’s likely the current plan given what the club paid for him. Vazquez definitely looks like he’ll be the full time backup as late as 2015.