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Efren Navarro Can Pick It: Top Angels Prospect Performances of 2011

Just try to get one by me.
Just try to get one by me.

12)  Efren Navarro, 05/14/1986 -- 1B, AAA

.317/.368/.488 with 12 HR and 5 SB. +7 runs bat, +15 runs glove, 2.8 WAR

I have it on good authority that Navarro's defensive prowess was "off the charts" according to at least one MLB team's proprietary defensive metrics.  PCL managers affirmed the data by voting Navarro the best defender in his league for the second straight year. Rawlings jumped on the bandwagon last week, awarding Navarro their minor league gold glove and recognizing him as the top defender at his position across all minor league teams. Given all of those kudos, a +15 glove may be lowballing Navarro's total contributions with the leather. 

This is a case where being left-handed may actually be a competitive disadvantage for Navarro. He clearly has a knack for picking it, but the defensive metrics imply a level of agility and range that, if he threw righty, would likely move him up the defensive spectrum in the infield. If he were a second baseman, for example, the lefty contact bat might play enough to grant him more major league consideration. But when you compare him to the average first baseman, his bat comes in at -3 runs because of all of the mashers playing that position (lead-footed and brick-handed though they may be). This presents a difficult profile for the Angels, who already do well on the run prevention side of things, but who struggle mightily to put their own runs on the board. If you're carrying three sub .300 OBP's in your lineup every night, and receive league average production from most every other position, than you have to get offense from first base.  You just have to in order to score runs, and Navarro doesn't pack enough punch to provide that.


If, on the other hand, 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. 

One last thing about Navarro's season: he hit four homeruns in July, and eight in August. Not one came before the Allstar break.  When I saw him earlier in the year, he had a handsey swing and made a lot of contact out in front of the body, which didn't result in much power.  He appeared to do a better job staying back on the ball late in the season.  It may be a statistical blip, or he may have changed his approach. We'll know more when we see him in spring training.