Prospect #18 – Yamaico Navarro
Without a doubt the most forward-thinking transaction of the winter for the Pirates was their acquisition of Yamaico Navarro from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Brooks Pounders and Diego Goris. Navarro came up with the Red Sox and was their 12th ranked prospect heading into the 2011 season – when he was described as having the best bat speed in the organization – before heading to Kansas City in the Mike Aviles deal. Navarro came up as a shortstop with the Red Sox and lasted at the position for the better part of four seasons in the minors, compiling a .951 fielding percentage and a range factor of 4.02, numbers that justify their subsequent decision to give him experience at multiple positions, in the hope of turning him into a super utility player.
Having said that, it is also clearly apparent that Navarro is not a butcher at short, and is certainly capable of handling the position should he become the Pirates’ reserve infielder. Last year, the Pirates had to keep both Josh Harrison and Pedro Ciriaco on their roster a good deal of the time due to Harrison’s inability to play shortstop. They may still decide to go that route with Rule 5 draftee Gustavo Nunez replacing Ciriaco, but Navarro gives them the option to apply that bench resource elsewhere.
The major difference between Navarro and the cast of thousands that have preceded him is that Navarro can genuinely hit, and with some noticeable pop, as can be seen in this video. Here are his minor league numbers for the last three seasons:
|2009 - A-/A+/AA||277||18||2||6||22||43||.240||.310||.392|
|2010 – AA/AAA||382||23||3||11||47||59||.275||.356||.437|
|2011 – AAA||250||11||3||7||24||43||.264||.344||.436|
Navarro has suffered some injuries, including a broken hamate bone in 2009 which resulted in his subpar performance, as well as a strained back which limited his time at Pawtucket prior to the trade. In light of this, his numbers are impressive for a middle infielder. The knock against Navarro is his attitude; purportedly, he has not kept himself in top shape, which contributed to his being moved off SS, and he has appeared to sulk and dog it from time to time. If there is one thing Clint Hurdle is good at, it is motivating his players to give 100%. Hopefully Navarro, who has played winter ball in Venezuela this year, will come to camp in top condition.
This will be Navarro’s 24 year-old season, and it would not surprise me if he displays significant improvement. If the Pirates suffer an infield injury or attrition, Navarro may be able to step in and give a good enough account of himself to take over a permanent spot on the diamond.