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.