Ryan Lavarnway will jump to his third level of the 2011 season, as a stint on the disabled list for third baseman Kevin Youkilis has opened up a spot on the roster and in the lineup for the power-hitting, 23-year-old backstop. Youkilis has missed four of the last 10 games, and with Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz also unavailable, the Red Sox needed to make a move to avoid having what was essentially a 22-man roster.
Lavarnway is likely here to stay as far as 2011 goes, as it is August 18, less than two weeks away from expanded rosters time, and Youkilis will be out for at least 15 days. This would make Lavarnway eligible for the playoff roster as well, assuming he performs at a level during his time in Boston that makes the team comfortable with carrying him for that purpose.
A corresponding 40-man roster move will need to be made -- likely the moving of Bobby Jenks to the 60-day DL (he has already missed 40 days on his latest DL stint), or a DFA of someone superfluous like Drew Sutton (now that Mike Aviles is in town). As of yet, that has not been announced, but all indications are that Lavarnway to the majors and Youkilis to the DL is a go.
Lavarnway hit well in Double-A for the second year in a row, with a .284/.360/.510 line that included 14 homers and a 22 percent strikeout rate. After his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, Lavarnway went crazy, hitting .301/.385/.608 with 16 homers in 239 plate appearances, and just a 23 percent whiff rate. He hasn't hit as well as of late, with a .125 batting average over his last 10 games, but his strikeout rate has remained constant and he has another three homers in that stretch, so this is likely more the ebb and flow of BABIP during a season than it is an actual struggle.
While his defense isn't considered major league ready just yet -- there are elements of game calling that he still needs to work on -- he has thrown out 35 percent of baserunners this year, and, as Alex Speier recently noted, he has improved behind the plate:
In his time as a professional, however, Lavarnway has achieved what members of the organization describe as little short of stunning gains as a defensive catcher. He has become more athletic behind the plate, resulting in across-the-board improvements, particularly in his technique.
It may not be the beginning of the Ryan Lavarnway era, as he is likely to be in the minors once again in 2012 in order to work on his catching, but his bat is likely major league ready. The International League is not the PCL, and Lavarnway's line is well above the league average of .260/.330/.401, so don't be surprised if he hits well right off the bat. The majors are a different game than even Triple-A, but Lavarnway's approach, pitch recognition, and power should serve him well the rest of the way.