Bryan Lavastida looks to be the backup catcher for the Cleveland Guardians come Opening Day, so let’s take a look at this prospect who rocketed through the system in 2021.
With Luke Maile injured (there goes that major free-agent signing) and Sandy León being informed he wouldn’t make the team, the road has been paved for 23-year-old Bryan Lavastida to be the Cleveland Guardians’ Opening Day backup catcher.
Lavastida, who has had four walks and four strikeouts in ten at-bats this spring, is one of a few catching prospects within the Guardians’ system, starting last season at High-A Lake County, but rocketing up to Triple-A Columbus by the end of the year. He put up especially impressive numbers in 119 plate appearances at Double-A Akron, slashing .291/.373/.466 with three home runs, seven doubles, 17 RBIs and a 130 wRC+ at that level.
Lavastida was added to the 40-man roster this past offseason, fueling the speculation that he could become the backup to primary catcher Austin Hedges. The Guardians signed Maile – a career .203 hitter in six major-league seasons – for some insurance, but Lavastida will now have a real chance to prove he belongs at the highest level.
The Bryan Lavastida Scouting Report
Lavastida was a 15th-round pick in the 2018 draft, which also saw the then-Indians selecting another catcher in the first round in Bo Naylor, who has seen some offensive struggles in the minors. As an aside, though, the 2018 draft could prove to be just as significant a draft for the Guardians as the 2016 draft was. Notable names selected that year include Nick Sandlin, Richie Palacios, Steven Kwan, and Cody Morris.
As for Lavastida, he’s a converted infielder with solid pitch recognition, and is continuing to improve behind the plate. While the improved defense will surely come, the Guardians are likely more intrigued at the moment by his bat, as the team has been truly suffering at the catcher position from an offensive standpoint. Last year alone, Hedges hit just .178/.220/.308 with ten home runs and a 43 OPS+ in 312 plate appearances, while Roberto Perez, battling injuries to be fair, hit just .149/.245/.319 with seven home runs and a 54 OPS+ in 161 plate appearances. It doesn’t matter how good the Guardians’ catchers are defensively – those are truly atrocious numbers at the plate, and Lavastida could help inject some much-needed life at the bottom of the lineup.
Lavastida has continued to improve each year within the Guardians system, growing ever more comfortable behind the plate, and he is often praised for his work ethic, which is likely how he was able to skyrocket up to Triple-A in 2021. He only had 21 plate appearances in Columbus, so the learning curve could be steep in 2022, but there is almost nowhere for the catching position in Cleveland to go but up.
It took an unfortunate injury to Maile for Lavastida to get his chance, but these are the types of opportunities that can be seized in order to alter a player’s career trajectory. The youth movement is on in full force around the rest of the field, so why not catcher as well? Time for Lavastida to show the Guardians what he can do.