Lavisky's progress has been slow, but he's still working hard
Catcher Alex Lavisky is in his second full season of professional baseball and continues to work hard to make the adjustments needed to have more consistent success.
Lavisky, 21, grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, a town about 10 minutes west of downtown Cleveland. Sports were a large part of growing up, though as he got older baseball became his primary focus. Growing up he idolized catchers Ivan Rodriguez and Joe Mauer. Rodriguez was his favorite player to watch, and Mauer’s class was something he patterned his playing style after.
“In grade school, it was about football and basketball with baseball as a summer league,” Lavisky said. “When I got to high school, I was quarterback of the varsity team for my sophomore and junior years. My senior year was all about my baseball career taking off.”
In 2010, Lavisky and Pittsburgh Pirates first-round draft pick Stetson Allie led St. Edward High School to an OHSAA Division I Baseball Championship. Lavisky led the team with a .481 average and also had six home runs and 27 RBI on the year.
During that run to a state title Lavisky was going through the steps of the MLB Draft, something that can be a bit overwhelming for a high school senior, especially a player like him that had a lot of attention as a high profile prospect.
“It was pretty intense,” Lavisky recalled. “Going into the draft, there was a lot of speculation of me going a lot higher than I was supposed to. A lot of teams were looking at me to go a little higher. I was willing to fall deep into the draft in order to sign for the money I wanted.”
On June 9th, 2010 the Indians drafted Lavisky in the eighth round (240th overall). The hard work throughout his high school years had paid off, and he got the added benefit of being selected by his hometown team.
“The whole process was awesome,” Lavisky said. “Once Cleveland took me it was a welcome-home kind of feeling. The front office was nice to me and my family. They were courteous to all of us.”
Once the draft process was over, the signing process immediately began. It took about two months, but eventually Lavisky reached a decision to turn down his scholarship offer to Georgia Tech and sign with the Cleveland Indians. He was signed to a $1 million dollar signing bonus on the day of the signing deadline.
“It took all summer to where I signed on the last day,” Lavisky said. “The process took all summer to work its self out, but it was very cut and dry. It was nice and to the point. It was a tremendously easy process for everyone, perfect for me and my family.”
With Lavisky signing at the deadline, he didn’t have much time to play pro ball in 2010. Lavisky made his pro debut on August 18, 2010 with the Arizona League Indians. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
“It was really to get me back in shape as I didn’t play much baseball that summer,” Lavisky said. “The time was to get me used to everything. [Chris] Tremie, the Akron manager, was there [as the manager]. He made it really awesome for me.”
After his time in Arizona, Lavisky joined the Lake County club during the playoffs and their march toward the Midwest League Championship.
“I traveled with the team to get more acclimated to pro ball,” Lavisky said. “I was able to throw every day and take BP with the team. That developed me until I went to Instructional League that year.”
Lavisky was assigned to Lake County to begin the 2011 season. Eastlake is about 40 minutes east of Lakewood, his hometown. It made him feel comfortable coming to the ballpark every day being so close to home.
“I had an amazing spring training [in 2011], I did really well,” Lavisky said. “They felt really comfortable sending me here. I think defensively I felt ready, and on the offensive side I didn’t feel ready to begin here. I struggled but it was a learning experience playing every day and adjusting to the competition.”
Lavisky struggled throughout the first half of 2011 as he only hit .207 with eight home runs and 24 RBI in 49 games. When short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley started play in June, the Indians made the decision to move him there to get him back on track.
“It was perfect; it was exactly what we needed,” Lavisky said. “I think the organization did a good job with starting me here and then moving me down there. Once I got down there, it was more of honing my skills defensively. Mainly on offense I was just working on staying back on balls and driving the balls to right field, using the entire field as a hitter.”
In 68 games for Mahoning Valley, Lavisky hit .201 with five home runs and 28 RBI. Overall, the one thing Lavisky struggled with over the course of the 2011 season was his plate discipline as he had just 29 walks but struck out 137 times.
Lavisky used the offseason to develop his skills and also learn an unfamiliar culture. He and a few other prospects spent about two weeks in the Dominican Republic during the instructional program the Indians run there in the offseason.
“It was a cool experience to become acclimated to their culture and see where they come from,” Lavisky said. “We worked out every day and were able to see the different cities. It was a good experience to share with my teammates and everyone else.”
When Lavisky returned to the United States he used the remainder of the offseason to perfect his swing.
“The offseason was dedicated to trying to dominate the right side of the field,” Lavisky said. “Last year my swing path was off. It was in the zone, but it started in the zone quick and then left quick. I wasn’t able to stay through on a lot of balls. The whole time was spent lengthening my swing path so I can get it in the zone early, keep it in and stay on balls.”
To begin the 2012 season, Lavisky was ticketed for a return trip to the corner of State Route 91 and Vine Street. This season, the roster has been loaded with talent, especially in the catcher’s role. Each day brings a different designated hitter and catcher in the lineup, so he was not guaranteed at bats every day.
“I feel that in that situation, your routines have to stay solid,” Lavisky said. “Your tee work and cage work, it has to stay solid because of the lack of consistency. You need to keep your swing and body as consistent and game like as possible.”
So far this season Lavisky has improved to a .234 average with six homers and 33 RBI in 64 games, and even though he is not showing a lot of power he is walking more and putting up better quality at bats.
As the season winds down, Lavisky looks to finish the year the way he started. With a young Lake County team in the second half playoff hunt, he looks to improve the rest of the year and lead the team to another Midwest League title.
“I feel that I need to stay to the process that has occurred all year,” Lavisky said. “Take it one day at a time and finish strong. Individually, you don’t want to skip a beat and keep hammering away at it each day. The universal goal, as a team, is to make a playoff push and move toward a championship.”
At any moment things can click, and if they do then Lavisky could someday achieve his dream and be the backstop for the major league team in his very own backyard.
Tyler, a sports management student at Lake Erie College, can be found on Twitter @tstotsky63.