Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Yamaico Navarro

Yamaico Navarro Perez was born in San Pedro de Macorís in the Dominican Republic and was signed by scout Pablo Lantigua as an 18 year old. He began his pro career in 2006 with the DSL Red Sox, and hit .279 in 53 games.

The next season, he advanced to the short-season Lowell Spinners, hitting .289 and was put on a pretty quick track for a teen Latino player. Navarro played at both A levels for the Greenville Drive and Lancaster Jet Hawks the next year, hitting a combined .304/11/77 in 125 games.

In 2009, he was assigned to the High A Salem Red Sox and then to the AA Portland Sea Dogs. He hit .319 in A ball, but in 39 AA games could only manage a .185 BA. Navarro then suffered a broken hamate, and was limited to just 67 games in total that year.

He was added to the Red Sox 40 man roster in the off season, and hit .275/11/61 in 104 games with the Sea Dogs and AAA Pawtucket Red Sox in 2010. Navarro was called up in August when Dustin Pedroia went on the DL and made his MLB debut against the Toronto Blue Jays that same day. But he was a fish out of water, hitting just .143 with 17 K in 42 at-bats.

Navarro was rated as Boston's #12 prospect in 2011 and began the year in Class AAA Pawtucket, where he hit .258, but with a respectable OBP of .362. Boston gave him reps at all three outfield positions to add a little more glitter to his package. The jack-of-all-trades program provided a pretty healthy hint that the Red Sox were beginning to consider him utility material in the show rather than a potential starter.

He was called up in July, replacing Mike Cameron, and popped his first (and so far, only) MLB dinger. But in 40 Boston AB, the infielder hit just .216.

On July 30th, Navarro was traded to the Kansas City Royals, along with Kendal Volz, for SS Mike Avilés. He was on the KC MLB roster for less than a week before being optioned to the Class AAA Omaha Storm Chasers to clear a space for Johnny Giavotella. His stroke did come around some with regular swings, even if just for a week (Navarro started the six games he played at KC, hitting .304). He finished with a .250 BA in 60 AB between his two MLB teams, and hit .272 at Omaha.

Navarro was traded to the Pirates by the Royals in December, just before the Rule V draft. KC got back 2009 second round pick RHP Brooks Pounders of West Virginia and IF Diego Goris, who was playing in the DSL. So the Pirates thought he was worth something, though the price may have been driven up because Seattle and Houston also showed interest in Navarro. While he doesn't glove as well as Pedro Ciriaco, he was deemed a considerable upgrade offensively.

The 24 year old makes good contact and is a line drive hitter with decent power for a middle infielder, putting up a .430 slugging % in the minors. His eye isn't the best, and he needs to show more consistent discipline at the dish, but that is an area where he's been improving in the past three seasons. Navarro is a fire plug at 5'11" and 215 lbs. As you might expect, he has just average speed with a 64% successful steal rate in the minors, although he did swipe 18 sacks in 2010.

He has the physical tools to excel in the infield, especially a strong arm. But he's been accused of Ronny Cedeno-itis, making the great play and then falling asleep on the routine one. In his big league career, he's mostly split time between short and the hot corner, with a handful of outings in the pasture and at second base. Some, though, question how his bulk will affect his range as he gets older, perhaps making him iffy as a SS.

Navarro doesn't project to turn into an every day player, but he does provide defensive versatility and some offensive upside from the bench. The Pirates are crossing their fingers that if he matures, he could spell Clint Barmes at short until someone in the system is ready to take over. Of course, that hope didn't pan out with Cedeno, but if at first you don't succeed...

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