Ryan Lavarnway wasn’t rated in the Red Sox top 10 prospect list by Baseball America this spring, but he will be there next year. As a catcher, Lavarnway could add to the Red Sox offensive superpower, helping the team in an area of weakness this season. As Jason Varitek ages and Jarrod Saltalamacchia continues being below-average, the bat alone will carry Lavarnway to the Majors. The only long-term issue is whether he can stay behind the plate. It should be worth the defensive short-comings.
Lavarnway has a .318/.392/.595 slash, ripping 17 doubles, 25 homers, and 69 RBI over 88 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He blasted 63 doubles, 42 homers and 189 RBI combined in 2009 and 2010, his first full seasons after being drafted out of Yale. He is a prospect that has experts confused. Should he move to a 1B/DH role, become a Mike Napoli-type of catcher who hits for impressive power but shouldn’t be behind the plate every night?
Regardless of where Lavarnway ends up, he needs to be in the lineup. The only place to put him is catcher. He isn’t taking at bats away from Adrian Gonzalez at first, and the Red Sox will probably re-sign David Ortiz after his amazing 2011 season. Saltalamacchia is eligible for arbitration and could be a cheap signing, but his up and down season may leave him out in the dark. Boston could actually save some money, something they should do after investing so much in Crawford, Gonzalez, Matsuzaka, and Lackey, and give the kid a shot. Maybe Lavarnway is trade bait if the Sox really want to upgrade over Josh Reddick in right during their chase for another title, who knows?