Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'll take a Yamaico Please

Earlier in the offseason, the Pirates signed Clint Barmes to fill the hole left behind by the departure of shortstop Ronny Cedeno.  A few weeks later, in order to add shortstop depth, the Pirates traded prospects Brooks Pounders and Diego Goris to the Kansas Royals for Yamaico Navarro.   It is unclear exactly what role Navarro will play this year, but he is young (24) and still has upside.

Navarro was signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2005 without much fanfare by the Red Sox organization.  Navarro played for the DSL Red Sox in 2006 as a 18 year-old and put up a solid .279/.344/.438 line.  The next season, as a 19 year-old, Navarro was promoted state-side and put up another solid .289/.357/.409 line for short-season Lowell.  His 6.1% BB rate and 15.1% K rate were also acceptable considering he was an international signing, a class of players that often struggles with plate discipline.

In 2008, Navarro put up a .304/.359/.447 line across two levels, finishing the year at A+ Lancaster and raising his prospect profile.  In 2009, a broken hamate bone limited Navarro to 67 games, and he was only able to manage a .240/.310/.392 line, especially struggling at AA with a .185/.270/.304 line in 39 games.  In 2010, Navarro put up a .275/.356/.437 line on his way to a .264/.334/.436 line in 2011.  That same year, he got traded to the Royals as part of the Mike Aviles deal.  Navarro only played 25 games for the Royals at AAA Omaha before becoming a Pirate.  Additionally, Navarro has seen his plate discipline inconsistently, but slowly, improve in the minor leagues, to where he now projects to have above-average walk and strikeout rates, boding well for his future prospects.

As a shortstop, Navarro will make his living based on his ability with the glove. Sickels talks about his ability defensive prowess, stating "Navarro has a strong throwing arm, but his range at shortstop has declined, in part due to his tendency to gain unnecessary weight. He can still make some spectacular plays, but will lose concentration and botch a routine one. The Red Sox are grooming him as a super-utility player, and with that in mind he's played second, short, third, and all three outfield positions for Pawtucket this year."  That makes it clear he has the tools to play shortstop, but his work ethic is preventing him from using those tools most effectively.  Overall, it seems if Navarro gets his act together, he can have an above-average or even plus glove at shortstop. 

Regarding his bat, Alex Eisenberg over at baseball-intellect ranked Navarro as the Red Sox #10 prospect back in 2009.  He had this to say about Navarro's bat, "Navarro possesses quick wrists and plenty of bat speed as he generally lets the ball travel deep into his zone when he’s not out in front on off-speed stuff. A mechanical flaw that makes Navarro susceptible to pitches away and breaking stuff is how he strides into foot plant. As Navarro strides, there are times where he seems to be drifting toward third base. When he does this, he ends up planting well on the third base side. In the clip below, you’ll notice he has a little Juan Uribe in him. That’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world as long he learns there are times to cut down on the swing a bit and develops some semblance of patience and discipline. Easier said than done, however."  If he can figure out how to fix his flaw or make it hurt him less, along with improving his plate discipline, which he did after 2009, Navarro could also provide an average to above-average bat at SS. 

Overall, Navarro could turn into an average or above-average cheap SS for the next 6 years.  As far as his prospect status, Sickels ranked Navarro as follows

2008 - 17th - C+
2009 - 9th - B-
2010 - 18th - C+
2011 - 15th - C+

In 2011, Sickels said this about Navarro " Looks like he can be a fine backup infielder to me right now with a chance to still develop beyond that."  I hope and optimistically think he's right about that last part.  Only time will tell, but either way, I think Neal Huntington made a solid trade, even if it was a minor one.