(4) Efren Navarro, 27, 1b. AAA. 4.0 WAR, +23 bat, +10 glove. .326/.404/.454 with 7 HR & 9 SB
The Angels drafted Navarro way back in 2007, making him the longest tenured Halos' minor leaguer. If that sounds like it was a long time ago, know that you're not alone: other teams thought so too, and reportedly contacted Navarro's agent prior to the 2012 season looking to sign him as a minor league free agent, despite the Angels retaining control over him. This year, the Halos removed any ambiguity by adding him to the forty-man roster.
Navarro created the second most runs of any player in Triple A according to Fangraphs' algorithm, easily the best offensive performance of his career. He hit everything in Salt Lake, posting a career high 26% line drive rate with a handsy lefty stroke, which partly validates his .390 BABIP. When he didn't hit, he took the free pass, adding a career best 12% walk rate. He even threw in a little speed, adding 9 stolen bases, yet another career best. While he showed neither the pop nor the contact rate that Calhoun did (no ding), he was undoubtedly the Bees' overall MVP with the bat, a role he'd never played on a professional team.
The offensive outburst was nice, but the Halos might very well have added him to the 40-man without the crazy linedrive rate. Efren Navarro has consistently turned in top-of-the-scale defensive performances going back to 2008, and earned a minor league gold glove for his efforts following the 2011 campaign. He shows extremely good range around the bag, near perfect hands, and picks it with the best of them. He's saved countless errors over the years, gloving throws that may have otherwise made infield prospects look silly, a valuable thing to have in the system when you're trying to both protect and mold the egos of teenage prospects. There are some indications that he slipped a little in the field in 2013, but that's coming down from a very high baseline.
So what is Navarro's future? From our 2011 review:
If... you are a team with an aging masher at first and more offense from other positions, Navarro could provide value at the major league level. Not only would he be an effective defensive sub, but he's a good hitter, with a simple, classically beautiful stroke from the left side. He identifies pitches well, sprays line drives to all fields, and likely would not be overmatched by good major league pitching. While he's no run producer, he could hit for some average, work some walks, and provide occasional gap power as a pinch hitter. That might work for a National League club.
Funny. That scenario sounds an awful lot like the Halos entering 2014, which explains why they chose to tether Navarro to the organization over the offseason. However, Dipoto also brought in Carlos Pena, Ian Stewart, and Chad Tracy to compete for the Albert Pujols caddy role, and you have to think that Scioscia's preference for veterans will be a critical factor in the ultimate decision. Meanwhile, C.J. Cron's productive AFL stint and spring means that Navarro is in danger of losing even Triple A playing time.
He has to get hot in a hurry if he's going to capitalize on the present opportunity.