Prospect of the Day: Yamaico Navarro, INF, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox cut Mike Cameron this week and replaced him on the roster with Yamaico Navarro, promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket. What kind of future does Navarro have in Boston?
Navarro was signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2005. Boston scouts were intrigued with his offensive potential and felt he had a chance to stick at shortstop. He emerged with a .289/.357/.409 campaign for Lowell in the New York-Penn League at age 19 in 2007, then hit a combined .304/.359/.447 with 11 homers in 125 games split between Low-A Greenville and High-A Lancaster in '08.
A broken hamate limited him to just 67 games in 2009 and he didn't hit well, marking just .240/.310/.392 including a weak .185/.270/.304 line in 39 games in Double-A. A return to health in '10 resulted in a .275/.356/.437 line split between Double-A and Triple-A, with 11 homers and 18 steals. He received a trial in Boston last year and went 6-for-42 (.143) in 20 games.
A strained back has limited Navarro to just 34 games for Pawtucket this year, where he's hit .258/.362/.469 with five homers in 128 at-bats. All told, in 445 career minor league games, he's hit .280/.349/.432 including .265/.356/.486 in 50 Triple-A contests.
The statistical profile shows that Navarro has more power than the standard middle infielder, and scouts agree with this, pointing out quick wrists and a swing with considerable loft. His plate discipline and strike zone judgment are inconsistent, although his walk rate has gradually improved. Scouts don't anticipate that he'll hit for a terrific average, but if he can manage .250-.270 with some pop, he can stay employed for a long time due to his glove.
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.
His best overall positions are third and second, but he has the physical ability to be at least competent just about anywhere if he puts in the effort. Scouts have critiqued his work ethic and hustle at times, though one hopes that proximity to the majors and simple maturity will help that problem.
Overall, Navarro isn't likely to turn into a star, but he has the tools and flashes the skills to be a valuable asset, providing defensive versatility and more offensive upside than most utilitymen. At age 23, he's still young enough to develop beyond that role.