Name: Reynaldo Navarro
Draft: 3rd Round, 2007
High School: Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
Weight: 175 lbs
History: The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Reynaldo Navarro 103rd overall in the 2007 June Amateur Draft. At the time, it seemed as thought the Diamondbacks reached a bit to grab a player who probably wasn't on a bunch of team's radar screens that early in the draft.
"This was a player that we identified [in fall, 2006] at some of the showcase tournaments and got an opportunity to see him in January," recalled Tom Allison, the man responsible for selecting Navarro last summer. "When we went over [to Puerto Rico], he was a guy that stuck out in our mind. Then later on, as the season unfolded, this guy just kept coming on and showed us exciting things in the middle of the field."
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
His numbers on both sides of the ball in his rookie season don't immediately impress (.913 fielding percentage/.557 OPS), but farm director A.J. Hinch really liked what he saw from the youngster.
"I think Navarro's been one of the biggest surprises, going into the league as a 17-year old and holding his own," Hinch told us late last summer. The shortstop must really be turning some heads now, because he has come a long way in the past 15 months.
"Navarro really made a lot of improvements in instructional ball," infield coordinator Tony Perezchica told us after the 2007 Instructional League. "He made major strides defensively."
Offensively, he began a conversion from strictly a right-handed batter into a switch-hitter. As young as he is, this is the time to try an experiment like that. Should Navarro indeed become a solid hitter from both sides of the plate, his other tools will make him one of the top shortstop prospects in baseball.
Batting and Power: The strides Navarro made between the 2007 and 2008 seasons were lengthy. His pitch recognition and selectivity have both improved, and the ball now jumps off his bat a bit more.
"Offensively we saw a little pop in his bat," said Perezchica. "He's going to be a good one; he just needs to mature, keep playing baseball, and learn as he goes."
His statistical improvements are even more impressive given that he is still learning how to swing from the left side of the plate. From his natural right-handed side, Navarro batted .391 with a 1.104 OPS this season as compared to .201/.537 as a left-handed batter. The Diamondbacks might re-examine his conversion into a switch-hitter in the next few years.
Base Running and Speed: Navarro wields plus-speed, but he is not the fastest player in the organization. Once he learns the nuances of base stealing, he should become a 30-40 stolen bases per season threat. He is already aggressive running the bases, having turned several doubles into triples. His aggressiveness and immaturity have caused him to make more than his fair share of outs on the base paths, though the organization is confident that those mistakes will dwindle in time.
Defense: Navarro's defense is his greatest asset. He doesn't have the best range in the organization right now, but once he gains a little aptitude for positioning himself and reading the ball off the bat, he will likely earn that honor.
"He's got plenty of tools," Perezchica said of his defense. "Got good range. He's shown an average to above average arm at times. He has to get the feet underneath him and get the confidence going."
Navarro is still having trouble making the routine play. His fielding percentage dipped even further to .906 this season. Perezchica and the rest of the Diamondbacks' instructional staff continued to hammer sound fundamentals in this talented youngster during his second round of fall ball. He still has the potential to become an elite defensive shortstop.
Major League Clone: Omar Vizquel
Prediction: In a couple of seasons, the Diamondbacks will end the switch-hitting experiment and allow Navarro to develop once again as a natural right-handed batter. He has too much to learn in every facet of the game for him to try to develop two swings at once.
Whether he remains a switch-hitter or not, the experiment has delayed his maturation process. Imagine how much further along his right-handed swing would be if he didn't need to also focus on the left-handed one. Imagine how many extra ground balls he could have taken or how many more base running drills he could have ran in the time it has taken him to hone his second swing.
We also still don't know whether he will draw enough walks to become a table-setter or hit for enough power to become a threat lower in the lineup.
"He's got a lot of tools, but he's got to find out what kind of player he's going to be," mused Perezchica. "I think the more he plays, the more experience on the field that he gets, he'll end up being a pretty good player."
Timetable: Navarro is still a long ways away from the big leagues due to his inexperience and his attempt to become a switch hitter. He should begin the 2009 season in South Bend, but could well repeat that level again in 2010 should he find Midwest League pitching overwhelming.