If there is one thing that last night’s first inning debacle made clear, it’s that the Red Sox need a new backup catcher. Sure, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is going to get the majority of the playing time either way and it won’t be too long until David Ross is back. However, four passed balls are a statistic that should be covered over a month, not one inning. Catching a knuckleball is tough for any catcher, but Ryan Lavarnway has experience catching Steven Wright at Pawtucket and still could not cut it last night– evidence that it is time for a change.
Lavarnway has not been terrible offensively given his limited playing time, but his slash line of .250/.298/.365 is not impressive and his .259/.367/.388 slash line at Pawtucket does not give a ton of optimism to improve. However, it is his defense that has been the problem as FanGraphs ranks his defense as below average in nearly every way.
It is a shame it has come to this considering Lavarnway, once a highly-touted prospect, hit 32 home runs in the minors just two years ago. However, the Red Sox have a 26 year old catcher– Dan Butler– in Pawtucket that is well-regarded as a better defensive catcher and has hit quite a bit better in 2013. Butler has a .283/.380/.513 slash line this year and has been one of the hottest bats in the organization lately, with a .384 average since the start of July.
It is clear that a once productive catching tandem between Saltalamacchia and Ross has fallen because of the injury to Ross and thus Saltalamacchia’s fatigue. Not having the confidence to regularly play Lavarnway is not helping and plugging Butler in behind the plate might give the team a boost. Butler is projected as a backup catcher anyway, and he has served in that role before, so it would not hurt his development. Last night showed evidence that the Red Sox need a change and they have one presented to them in the minors.