A slew of story lines coexist with the PawSox/Bats four game series, the PawSox’s four game lead over the Bats in a tight wild card race, PawSox move towards first place, Edison Volquez makes another start in his rebound to the majors and Jed Lowrie’s excepted rehab assignment, but one story that might be overlooked during this series is the battle between catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Devin Mesoraco.
Both have similar stories: big league ready in offense, making strides in the defensive department, top prospect in his respective organization, made quick work of Single-A and Double-A (took three seasons to be in Triple-A) and can be a starter on his major league club as early as next season even though they are currently not on their respective teams’ 40-man roster (both are projected to be on 2014 starting lineup for their teams, according to Baseball America).
The comparisons don’t stop there. To elaborate more on the defensive front, Lavarnway was clocked at a 2.1 second range pop time by scouts, while Mesoraco was clocked consistently at 1.9-2.0; usually those are the times for most catchers developing through the minors. In regard to throwing out percentage, Lavarnway in 2010 threw out 33 percent of runners, Mesoraco was slightly better at 41(throughout minors); Lavarnway has thrown out 29 percent so far in 2011 with the PawSox, Mesoraco is at 25 with Louisville.
Even their built can be compared, Lavarnway is listed at 6’4”, 225 pounds, while Mesoraco is listed at 6’1” 220 pound and as a catcher norm, both throw right handed; both are righties at bat too.
Offensively, Lavarnway has proven far more superior than Mesoraco in 2011; the only comparison is BB% (9.6 for both). Granted, Lavarnway has played in 53 fewer games because he started his season in Double-A unlike Mesoraco who has been in Triple-A throughout the 2011 campaign.
Lavarnway is batting .352/.421/.692 in 41 games with Pawtucket this season; his OPS is at an uncanny mark of 1.113, with a .340 ISO (isolated power). He has 13 homeruns and 40 RBI. A concern lately for Lavarnway has been his strikeouts. In his last 10 games, he has seven two-strikeouts games (15 strikeouts in total in those game). He has a K% of 22.5 (40 in 239 PA), which isn’t bad in comparison to the rest of the league; Jorge Vazquez of the Indians leads the league with a 34.4 strikeout percentage.
Mesoraco is batting .305/.376/.496 in 94 games with Louisville this season. His OPS is .872, which is the seventh best in the IL (Lavarnway doesn’t meet criteria for rankings). His ISO is at .191 this season, sixteenth best in the IL. Compared to Lavarnway, even though with more games played, Mesoraco’s numbers seem average, but in comparison to the rest of the league (with those with the same amount of games/at-bats), Mesoraco is a powerhouse for the Bats. He does strikeout less than Lavarnway, 18.4%, and has only had five in his last 10 games.
Comparing only strikeouts in the last 10 games is fatuous, so let’s compare the “typical” stats. Lavarnway is hitting .286/.333/.585 with three homeruns and 12 RBI, while Mesoraco is hitting .385/.419/.538 with one homerun and eight RBI; aiding his team to a 6-4 and 5-5 record respectively.
I forgot to mention that Mesoraco was drafted from high school (Punxsutawney Area High School) in the first round of the 2007 draft, while Lavarnway was drafted a year later in the sixth round from Yale. Mesoraco set his school records in hits, homeruns, doubles, walks, runs and stolen bases, clearly having more expectations than Lavarnway, who was under the radar until this year.
It will be interesting to see how this mini-battle unfolds in the grand battle between the PawSox and the Bats during their four-game series at McCoy, which starts today at 6:05 EDT.