The title for this post is a little bit of a red herring. You will not see any catching trade targets in this post. Well you will, briefly, but not for the purpose of listing people the Red Sox may acquire. You see, after a horrible start to the season in which no Red Sox catcher homered until May 15th, both Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek are hitting above average for the season.
In case you have forgotten how bad things were with the Red Sox catching position back in May, here is an excerpt from my Week 5 Observations post back on May 10:
Red Sox catchers. If you combine the OPS’s of Jarrod Saltalamacchia(.522) and Jason Varitek (.466), they would still rank just 6th in all of baseball. Salty has allowed the most stolen bases in the AL and Varitek ranks to third last in caught stealing percentage of all AL catchers with at least 15 starts. We are supposed to believe that Varitek has played a large role in Beckett’s and Dice K’s turn around and apparently Salty is getting much better at calling games. But when do we see some tangible production from this crew? Varitek is hanging on because he’s the captain and Salty is holding it down because he still has promise and is the same age as Varitek when it clicked for him. This is all well and good, and I can live with low production from this spot on offense, but it appears neither are doing anything well, which is just depressing.
*OPS+ is the percent above or below average (average represented by a value of 100) a batter's OPS is compared to his position with adjustments for playing in a hitter's or pitcher's park.
Should either of the current catchers falter or get hurt, the Sox should still be all set. Down in Pawtuckett, 23-year-old Ryan Lavarnway is establishing himself as a legitimate player and pulling away as the Sox top catching prospect. Since his promotion to AAA in June, he has hit .381/.451/.729 in 133 plate appearances. He could definitely use some more time in the minors, but in a pinch he should serve as a more than adequate compliment to the remaining catcher. For more on Lavarnway, here is prospect maven John Sickels:
All told, Lavarnway is a career .284/.375/.509 hitter in 320 minor league games, with no deterioration in his performance as he's moved up the ladder. Indeed, if anything he's improved, easing scout concerns about a long swing by showing power to all fields. He has decent plate discipline and his strikeout rate has actually declined as he's moved up. Although he won't win batting titles in the majors, I expect that he'll carry the power forward. The serious question has always been defense, and while Lavarnway has spent much of his career as a DH, his glove has improved...Although Lavarnway will never win gold gloves, if he maintains his current progress he can be at least adequate defensively, while providing considerable power on the offensive side. We should see him in Fenway later this year, and he could take a larger role on the major league roster in 2012.