Ryan Lavarnway: Atlanta Braves’ Latest Backstop


I’ll bet most of you read the title of this article, and asked, “Who the heck is Ryan Lavarnway?” Its a fair question, and there’s little shame if you’re not that familiar with him. Let’s get familiar.

-= RELATED: Right Idea To Send Christian Bethancourt Down To AAA? =-

My co-editor John Buhler reported earlier today that the Atlanta Braves sent catcher Christian Bethancourt down to Triple-A Gwinnett and selected the contract for Ryan Lavarnway to take his place. We found this out originally from a tweet by the Braves official Twitter account:

Bethancourt had been uncharacteristically struggling all season, both with his bat and behind the plate. With a 2015 slash of .208/ .231/ .297/ .528, Bethancourt had previously shown some hitting prowess in Triple-A at times, but his real forte’ has been a cannon for an arm, and above-average capabilities as a defensive catcher.

Unfortunately, his .208 BA, .231 OBP and .297 SLG have left a bit to be desired, and the Braves have suffered with Christian’s five passed balls, and three errors platooning for just 27 games started. And lest we forget, for all of Bethancourt’s talent, he allowed 6 passed balls and committed three errors in 2014 as well, and that in just 29 games started. Very uncharacteristic.

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I’m not sure how long Bethancourt will stay in Gwinnett, but sometimes you don’t get that extra chance to prove yourself. Whether Bethancourt’s issues were an aberration, temporary or not, he’s now opened the door for another to come in and grab the opportunity. Is Ryan Lavarnway someone who can do it? Only time will tell, but we should get a look at him soon!

As the Atlanta Braves will be in Boston at Fenway Park to take on the Redsox tonight, Lavarnway will get a chance to shoot the bull with the team he was a part of (with limited play time) from 2011 to 2014, and Braves’ fans could get to see how well he handles himself.

As you already know by now, A.J. Pierzynski got the start for the Braves tonight, but the 38-year-old, wily veteran needs a competent platoon, and while he had a tough month of May, Pierzynski has been terrific starting the majority of games for the Braves this year.

But let’s take a closer look at Ryan Lavarnway. Is there much to recommend him, or will he just be a filler until Bethancourt builds some confidence down in Gwinnett?

With five years in the pros, the 28-year-old Ryan Lavarnway has seen only limited playing time, the most just 46 games in 2012 where he hit well below the Mendoza Line at just a .157 BA. He did hit for a .299 BA in 2013 in just 25 games for Boston, but has done almost nothing since. Ryan has been waived around several times, and 2015 was spent with the Baltimore Orioles until the Braves signed Ryan Lavarnway as a free agent.

Ryan did perform pretty well on the minor league level, with a slash over eight years of .282 /.375/ .478/ .853, but those kinds of numbers have yet to translate to the big show. His minor league catching stats show some early problems with errors and passed balls as well, but a closer look shows he got those issues under control pretty well.

With Gwinnett so far this year, defensive stats look good, and offensively Lavarnway has a pretty good slash of .268 /.388/ .463/ .851. Not bad!

Who knows? New digs and a new opportunity could translate to lightning in a bottle for the still young Ryan Lavarnway. He might come out of the gate handling starters well, showing more stability behind the plate than Bethancourt has been able to, and his bat might come to life like it did in the minors.

I have plenty of confidence in John Hart‘s decision for Ryan behind the plate, but I’m not expecting too much from Ryan Lavarnway with the bat. My best hope there is that Atlanta Braves’ hitting coach Kevin Seitzer can work some magic with him as well.

ATL All Day Editorial Note: Some of you know that I was in a bad motorcycle accident back on March 14th. I have spent 3 months now battling to get back to some degree of normalcy. I suffered through two knee fractures, five displace fractures of the ribs (surgery for plate repair), broken clavicle, damaged cartilage in legs and shoulder, and a badly bruised spleen. I am so thankful to be back writing for ATL All Day, and continuing my work as an Editorial Director for FanSided. I look forward to sharing with John in growing our audience and sharing with like-minded fans.

Next: The Curious Case of Christian Bethancourt