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Welcome to another edition of our preposterously inconsistent feature! Today’s Prospect to Better Know is Bryan Lavastida.
Listeners of the Around the Corner prospect podcast will recall Brian Hemminger and I fawning over Lavastida’s on-base numbers. The catcher, who turns 23 today, joined the Guardians organization as the 29th pick in the 15th round of the 2018 Amateur Draft.
He likely came to your awareness when the Guardians added him to the 40-man roster to protect him during the 2021 Rule 5 Draft.
Prior to his selection, Lavastida attended West Hialeah Senior High School and garnered some attention on the Perfect Game circuit of showcases. He played shortstop and third base while playing alongside Jeter Downs and others as a member of the Gamewear Nationals.
Lavastida committed to Hillsborough Community College and moved to catcher. The switch didn’t slow him down a bit. In his sole season, he slashed .384/.445/.539 while leading the league in doubles and swiping 30 bases.
The Guardians — who have shown an affinity for athletic catchers who recently adopted the position or play multiple sports (for durability and coachability, I suspect) — were a natural landing spot in hindsight. He rewarded their scouting with a .292/.415/.367 slash line in 33 games of rookie ball.
In 2019, he moved to Low-A ball and slashed .335/.408/.483. He played a single game of full-season Single-A before the season ended, then skipped straight to High-A in 2021 after COVID nixed the 2020 minor league season. He finished 2021 in Columbus.
A catching prospect who capably scoots from High-A to Triple-A within one season is worth knowing about before you even sniff the statistics. If we paint-by-numbers a little further we get more intricate details:
High-A: 48 games, .303/.399/.467, 12 2B, 5 HR
Double-A: 29 games, .291/.373/.466, 7 2B, 3 HR
Triple-A: 7 games, .158/.238/.316, 0 2B, 1 HR
Look, not everybody can just skyrocket forever. I think I would have had more questions if Lavastida had obliterated Triple-A pitching after starting the season in Lake County. His strikeout rate gained some altitude after his first 2021 promotion, going from a K% of 15.2% at High-A to 23.5% at Double-A. This proved to be more than turbulence at Triple-A, as he struck out nearly half of the time.
It is nice, then, to see that Lavastida’s skills at the plate will be challenged in 2022. Seven games is nowhere near enough time for a player to adjust to a new level. I expect his strikeout rate to hit a cruising altitude closest to his Double-A number, a number that would allow him to do plenty of damage. And that’s even before considering his defense at a premium position.
Justin Lada at Guardians Baseball Insider wrote a phenomenal article in August that details the work Lavastida puts into his defense. This is a situation where I strongly encourage you to go read the original, but the key takeaways are:
Dude is hungry
Major league-caliber arm and pop time
Dude puts in the work
Lake County pitchers raved about his game calling and plate blocking
Dude sounds like a kickass teammate. From the Lada article:
“We worked hard for three months in Arizona,” he said of his relationship with [fellow catcher Bo] Naylor.” We knew we were in this together. We better each other. What he’s working on, I’m working on. What I see in him, I’ll tell him. What he sees in me, he’ll tell me. We see it as a partnership. Catching is a very demanding position. We want to be the best us we can possibly be to help our team. It’s gotten us both to positive strides to where we want to be. We got drafted the same year. We’ve been together for a long time. We’re just hoping to see where we can get to.”
I don’t want to jump on a table and start screaming “O CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN” quite yet, but this is a startling departure from certain former team leaders who enjoyed playoff naps.
Keep an eye on his assignment after spring training. I believe that Columbus is the most likely spot for him to start the 2022 campaign. However, he is currently one of two catchers on the 40-man roster. He has basically skipped a level before…
I will not actually put such responsibilities or expectations on the young man. What I will say, though, is that he is certainly a Guardians Prospect to Better Know.