BALTIMORE, MD: Ryan Lavarnway #60 of the Boston Red Sox follows his three RBI home run against the Baltimore Orioles during the fourth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
His 2011 campaign made him look ready for the majors, but Ryan Lavarnway is off to a slow start in 2012. He has just five extra-base hits on the season, and while he's drawing plenty of walks and not striking out overly-much, the batting average hasn't been there for him either.
The last 10 games haven't been kind to him, as he's drawn just two walks and laced one double in that stretch. Lavarnway's shown he can hit before, and at this level, so it's tough to get too worked up about this short-term struggles, unless they turn into something less short-term.
Defensively, the reports have been solid, but he's not there yet. When we talked to Chris Mellen of Sox Prospects about Lavarnway on Episode 51 of the podcast, Lavarnway's defense was described as being good enough for certain types of pitchers, but lacking for those who like to bury sliders or sinkers in the dirt. Without the confidence that the catcher will be able to block it, someone like Alfredo Aceves might not feel comfortable using his secondary stuff as a surprise pitch late in a count.
It's not the end of the world, as the Red Sox could certainly let Lavarnway catch the starters who don't throw that way, and have Jarrod Saltalamacchia handle the others. His full major-league career doesn't need to start all at once, and he's still got plenty left to learn in Pawtucket at the moment.
Jose Iglesias, SS
At least Lavarnway has hit at Triple-A at one point. Iglesias seems to be getting the hang of it, but it's a slow process, and he's certainly got a long way to go. There are some good signs here, though. The 11 walks in 131 plate appearances puts him well ahead of last year's pace, where he drew just 21 walks in 387 plate appearances and 101 games. At this pace, he'll blow that figure away, and without striking out too often, either.
He's hitting an empty .250, but that and the new walk rate has at least helped him move his on-base percentage up to tolerable levels. He's also hit .325/.372/.400 over his last 10 games. Shave 40 points off of that, and it would still be solid for someone with his glove at shortstop. But he has to keep hitting for more than 10 games at a time before we can even dream of him being at that point, so don't think I mean to say that the recent iteration of Iglesias is who he is forever.
It should be said that most of his problems come against right-handers -- a shame given he'll face them three-quarters of the time in the majors -- but he's showing much more ability against left-handers. We're talking about roughly 30 plate appearances, though, so as with most things involving Iglesias and his bat, let's not get too excited.
Alex Wilson, RP
Alex Wilson switched to relief, and has already appeared in that role six times. Out of the pen, he's thrown nine innings, allowed four runs, struck out 10, and walked four batters. He's also picked up some grounders in those appearances -- not a ton, but enough that it's worth mentioning given Wilson generally leans fly ball.
This role change is going to fast-track Wilson to the majors, even if the Red Sox don't have room for him in June or July. But he's going to need to spend more time in the bullpen getting used to the routines it involves (or the lack of routines, compared to what starting was like). That could take some time, but at least we're seeing Wilson miss bats like we know he can.