RYAN LAVARNWAY, CATCHER
|Born: August 7, 1987
Drafted: 6th Round, 202nd Overall, 2008 (Red Sox)
How Acquired: Minor league free agent
College: Yale University
Agent: Wasserman Media Group
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Lavarnway at one time was a highly regarded catching prospect with the Red Sox, mainly due to his power bat. Coming out of college, his defense was not well regarded, but he worked very hard at it and eventually became at least a passable receiver. His arm is not strong, but it’s accurate and his caught stealing percentages in the minors have hovered around 30%. He’s thrown out 20% in his modest major league playing time. Lavarnway put up very big power numbers while he was moving up through the minors, but didn’t manage to get established in the majors, where he had trouble with offspeed stuff in fairly limited chances. When he went back to the minors, his power suddenly evaporated. Lavarnway doesn’t run well at all; at one point he went three years without attempting a steal. The Pirates signed Lavarnway to a minor league contract for 2018.
Lavarnway didn’t hit well in his debut, although he showed some power and had a decent walk rate.
In low A, Lavarnway had a big year, hitting for a lot of power. Oddly, Baseball America didn’t rank him among the Red Sox’ top 30 prospects after the season, possibly because he was a college draftee playing at the lowest level of full season ball. Doubts about his defense were probably another reason.
Lavarnway continued to hit for good power in high A and hit slightly better in a late-season promotion to AA. He also improved his plate discipline. BA rated him the Sox’ 16th best prospect after the season, noting that he’d worked hard to improve his defense but needed to continue doing so.
The Red Sox sent Lavarnway back to AA and he continued to hit well, so in June they promoted him to AAA. He hammered the pitching there and, in August, got called up to the majors. He went back to AAA briefly late in the month, then returned to the Red Sox in September. BA rated him the Sox’ 9th best prospect after the season, as well as the top power prospect in the International League.
Lavarnway went back to AAA for the first four months of the year. He continued to hit well, with good plate discipline, but much less power than the previous several years. He got called up at the beginning of August and played semi-regularly the rest of the year, but struggled to hit.
The Sox sent Lavarnway back to AAA again. He got several callups, but played sparingly in Boston. In AAA, his power largely disappeared.
Lavarnway again opened the season in AAA and continued to hit much like the previous year, with limited power. He got called up in late May, but a few days later he suffered a fractured left wrist and missed two and a half months. He returned in July and got called up in September. By this time Lavarnway was out of options and the Red Sox put him on waivers after the season. He was claimed, designated for assignment, and claimed again three times in short succession, ending up with the Orioles.
Baltimore outrighted Lavarnway to AAA in January, then called him up in April. The Orioles eventually designated him for assignment in May and he became a free agent, signing a minor league deal with Atlanta. The Braves called him up two weeks later and he spent the rest of the season with them, playing very sparingly. The Braves outrighted him after the season and he accepted assignment to AAA.
The Braves sent Lavarnway to AAA and his power loss continued. Atlanta released him in May and he signed with Toronto, which sent him down to AA.
Lavarnway signed with Oakland and spent most of the season with the Athletics’ AAA affiliate. He did get a couple of brief callups, after which he was designated for assignment each time. His hitting continued to decline.
Lavarnway spent the season at Indianapolis, sharing the catching duties with Jacob Stallings. He didn’t play much initially, but the Pirates got him to view old video of himself and he made some adjustments at the plate. In June he got hot and hit extremely well the rest of the season. He also threw out 44% of base stealers. The Pirates added him to the roster and called him up for September. He went 4-for-6 as a pinch hitter, but didn’t see any time behind the plate.
Lavarnway made a remarkable comeback in 2018, but with no options it’s hard to see how he has a future in Pittsburgh. He’s got three other catchers ahead of him. It’s possible the Pirates will retain him for a while, maybe into the spring, in case of unforeseen developments.
|2019: Major league minimum
|Signing Bonus: $325,000
MiLB Debut: 2008
MLB Debut: 8/18/2011
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2022
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 8/18/2011
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2012, 2013, 2014)
MLB Service Time: 3.001
|June 5, 2008: Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 6th round, 202nd overall; signed on July 28.
August 18, 2011: Contract purchased by the Boston Red Sox.
November 25, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox.
December 5, 2014: Claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers from the Boston Red Sox.
December 10, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
December 19, 2014: Claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
December 24, 2014: Claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles from the Chicago Cubs.
January 26, 2015: Designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles; outrighted to AAA on January 26.
April 6, 2015: Called up by the Baltimore Orioles.
May 26, 2015: Designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles; refused assignment and became a free agent on May 29.
May 30, 2015: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Atlanta Braves.
June 15, 2015: Called up by the Atlanta Braves.
October 9, 2015: Outrighted to AAA by the Atlanta Braves.
May 13, 2016: Released by the Atlanta Braves.
May 27, 2016: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
November 7, 2016: Became a free agent.
November 30, 2016: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Oakland Athletics.
July 5, 2017: Called up by the Oakland Athletics.
July 8, 2017: Designated for assignment by the Oakland Athletics; outrighted to AAA on July 11.
July 27, 2017: Called up by the Oakland Athletics.
August 5, 2017: Designated for assignment by the Oakland Athletics; outrighted to AAA on August 7.
October 13, 2017: Became a free agent.
January 22, 2018: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
September 4, 2018: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.