In a year where Ryan Lavarnway struggled both at and behind the plate, how much of a hit did the prospect's status take?
Say what you will about Ryan Lavarnway's bat. In his 166 plate appearances with the Sox in 2012, it may have been non-existent, but this is someone we know can swing a decent stick. Even if he was having a down year in Triple-A, there's no real explaining the sheer cliff he fell off of when he made the jump to the majors.
The really problematic thing for Ryan Lavarnway was not how poorly he hit--it seems unlikely that many opinions have changed on his ability in that aspect of the game based on his short stint in Boston this year. No, what Lavarnway has to worry about is the fact that he did not look like a catcher. Not at all.
Let's be clear: this was not a matter of simply looking like a poor defensive catcher. We've all been warned that Lava's not the best glove in the world, and for the most part we didn't come into this expecting to see him flash the leather behind the plate, regardless of what minor league coaches and various assorted puff pieces may have said. But Lavarnway wasn't simply lacking. He was Pedro Ciriaco or Kevin Youkilis in the outfield. He was Julio Lugo at any position ever. He was simply lost back there, almost as if he wasn't a catcher at all, but a first baseman thrust into the role by necessity.
It goes beyond the 28 stolen bases he allowed in 31 attempts, beyond the -4 DRS he managed to accrue in just 219 innings of work, and beyond the low placement he received in catcher defense rankings. Just by looking at his awkward work behind the plate, it seemed clear that Lavarnway was a fish out of water, trying to do his best but coming up woefully short.
To be fair to Ryan, we may have been seeing him at his worst. 2012 had been by far the most demanding year for him defensively, as he played regularly behind the plate, seeing only three games as DH in Pawtucket. That his bat was so diminished in the majors might be another sign that his body just wasn't in it late in the season. That, of course, raises its own set of questions about his durability, especially behind the plate, but that seems like a better question to have asked then "are you actually a catcher?"
There's no question that this is a valley in Ryan Lavarnway' career. One of our most interesting prospects last year, Lavarnway has given some validity to his greatest critics, be they the ones who questioned whether he would ever be a catcher, or the ones who didn't think his bat would translate to the majors.But, even at 25, Lavarnway has plenty of time to figure things out. The Sox have two option years left on him, and as we've mentioned before in recent weeks, Lavarnway would hardly be the first catcher to take extra time before making the jump. Or, if the team determines that's not his lot, he can hopefully turn a season without the rigors of catching into a big one offensively. Either way, this is hardly the last we've heard of Ryan Lavarnway.