Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Is Ryan Lavarnway the Red Sox's eventual solution at catcher?
With Jason Varitek aging, Jarrod Saltalamacchia having issues with yips, Victor Martinez signing with the Tigers, and Dusty Brown now with the Pirates, the future of the Red Sox behind the dish is a little uncertain. There are a couple of Double-A options, at least, and one of those two is Ryan Lavarnway. (The other, Luis Exposito, has perhaps received more attention, partially due to his entertaining Twitter account.)
Lavarnway is a Yaler. He was signed in 2008 in the 6th round, and he spent some time in the Arizona Fall League this past autumn. He started catching his sophomore year of college, picking up the duties full-time during his junior season. Catching, clearly, is still a work in progress, as he himself admits, but over the past two seasons he's made enough strides to make his way to Portland. He can't be too bad at it, in that case.
Lavarnway's progress as a hitter is just fine, which is a big part of the reason he's progressed to Portland so quickly. He's an extremely polished, patient hitter, and his plate discipline is very advanced. Perhaps most importantly, however, is his work ethic, which is the biggest reason that he continues to improve and maintain his skills as he advances up the Minor League ladder. He's worked hard enough to gain the catching skills necessary to be in Double-A already, and with continued perseverance, he could easily find himself in Pawtucket this season. If anything, he'll likely end up as a good defensive catcher in the mold of Josh Thole, but he won't be on the level that Varitek is (granted, Tek is a benchmark for all young catchers these days, and he's set the bar ridiculously high).
And hey, don't forget that Lavarnway is very smart. That's an advantage if there ever was one.
Photo of Ryan Lavarnway by Stephen Fritzer.