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Red Sox prospect Ryan Lavarnway is banging down the door

Jul 22, 2011, 2:10 PM EDT

Ryan Lavarnway Getty Images

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway homered yet again on Thursday.  He’s hitting .514 with seven homers in his last nine games for Triple-A Pawtucket.

Lavarnway, a 2008 sixth-round pick out of Yale, has been on a tear since the day the Red Sox traded Michael McKenry to to the Pirates to clear a spot for him on Pawtucket’s roster.  He’s hit .377/.445/.746 with 12 doubles, 12 homers and 33 RBI in 34 games in the International League, and he’s up to 26 homers in 338 at-bats for the season overall.

This isn’t coming out of nowhere.  Lavarnway hit .285/.367/.540 with 21 homers and 87 RBI at low Single-A Greenville in 2009 and .288/.393/.489 with 22 homers and 102 RBI between high-A Salem and Double-A Portland last season.  Still, he wasn’t taken very seriously as a prospect because of his defensive issues.  Lavarnway didn’t start catching until he was a sophomore at Yale, and most don’t believe he’ll stick behind the plate in the majors.

The Red Sox, for what it’s worth, continue to claim otherwise, and it doesn’t appear to be a gimmick to enhance his trade value.  But even if they’re wrong, with what Lavarnway has showed this year, there’s now some hope that he’ll be able to make it in the majors as a first baseman or designated hitter.  The 24-year-old is tied for fourth in the minors in homers, even though he’s played in pitcher’s leagues.  His Triple-A OPS is 1.191.  The next highest mark for anyone to get 100 at-bats in the International League this year is Trevor Plouffe‘s 1.019.

It doesn’t sound like there are any plans for the Red Sox to make room for him at the major league level.  The duo of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek has been very good since an awful April, and there’s really no room for Lavarnway to contribute elsewhere.  Still, he is now in a position to step in at catcher or DH should Salty, Varitek or David Ortiz land on the DL.  And he’ll definitely get a look in September, even if it’s just in a pinch-hitting role.

  1. thinman61 - Jul 22, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    I got to see Lavarnway play in Manchester last season when the Sea Dogs were in town to play the Fisher Cats. Unbelievable hitter.

  2. ryanmallettsbluntwrap - Jul 22, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    Smart kid , should be a great in the bigs. BUT , while his triple A stats are very very impressive , we won’t know how great he will be for a few years , Rizzo was on a tear in triple A , got called up , and didn’t do very well at all , both kids are still young , and should have good careers , but realistically we probably won’t know for a couple more years.

  3. natstowngreg - Jul 22, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    Could it be, the Red Sox say he will remain at catcher because they don’t have many alternatives in their organization? Just curious.

  4. scapistron - Jul 22, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    1. Rizzo was tearing up the PCL, the most hitter friendly environment around. Check out Wily Mo’s line for the diamondbacks AAA affiliate.

    2. The sox system is very crowded with 1st base / DH types. There is no rush to move him along. they will let him continue to catch because even with below average defense he provides considerable value (think V. Martinez).

    3. They have a good defensive prospect catching at AA too.

    4. What happened to Montero?

    5. I feel like an @$$ using a list like this

    • natstowngreg - Jul 22, 2011 at 11:12 PM

      There are two types of people in the world:

      1. People who make numbered lists.
      People who do not make numbered lists.

  5. Matthew Pouliot - Jul 22, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    27 homers now. Two-run shot in the first inning tonight.

    • ryanmallettsbluntwrap - Jul 22, 2011 at 8:40 PM

      RBI double 2nd at bat

  6. bosoxfan1950 - Jul 23, 2011 at 4:03 AM

    Methinks Varitek is good for at least one more full season, 2012. That gives Lavarnway at least one more year to improve his defensive skills and proficiency. But, as has been posted, I’m sure we’ll get a good look at Lavarway come September for no other reason than his bat.

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