Written by Tony Pente
Yamaico Navarro is still trying to find his niche in the major leagues. Once considered the 12th best Red Sox prospect heading into 2011 by Baseball America, the 25-year old Dominican is now hoping to open some eyes in his 4th organization.
Once a shortstop with an above average arm, weight issues and inconsistencies has seen him moved to third base and second base as teams try and find a role for his bat. With a career .273/.353/.471/.824 line in 566 AAA plate appearances (PAs), Navarro has shown enough offense at the upper levels to keep teams interested in him at least as a utility player.
Unfortunately for Navarro, those numbers have not translated to the major leagues where he’s put up an abysmal .191/.244/.250/.494 line in 168 major league PAs. On top of it, he was not very effective defensively, especially at shortstop where his lack of range hurts his ability to play there on any kind of regular basis.
In addition to his major league struggles, Navarro has been tagged as malcontent by some scouts who have questioned his work ethic and desire which explains why teams have been so willing to move him in trades. The Orioles acquired him last November for Jhondaniel Media, a 19-year old short right-hander from Venezuela who pitched for the Gulf Coast League team last year.
It will be interesting to see he how fits in with a team like the Orioles that’s run by no-nonsense manager like Buck Showalter. Showalter demands his players play hard all the time so Navarro will need to make sure his questionable work ethic days are behind him or his time in the Orioles organization could be short.
To his credit, Navarro has made a good first impression on the field reaching base in all four of his plate appearances this spring collecting two hits and two walks. He’s played two games at second base and one at third.
Navarro’s greatest strength is his versatility as he’s played 3B, SS, LF, 2B and RF in the major leagues. He doesn’t have the power to profile at 3B, nor does he have the quickness to play every day up the middle, so he’ll need to show the Orioles he can play effectively all over while showing an ability to get on base.
If Brian Roberts stays healthy, Navarro will battle with Alexi Casilla for the utility job although he could possibly work his way into the right-handed bat spot competition with Russ Canzler, Steve Pearce, Trayvon Robinson and others.
With an option left, Navarro is probably ticketed for Norfolk where he will most likely play multiple positions for manager Ron Johnson. If he hits well down there and shows defensive versatility, Navarro could end up seeing time in Baltimore this year.
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