- Full name Dioner Favian Navarro
- Born 02/09/1984 in Caracas, Venezuela
- Profile Ht.: 5'9" / Wt.: 215 / Bats: S / Throws: R
- Debut 09/07/2004
Organization Prospect Rankings
After a breakout year in 2003, Navarro entered last year as the Yankees' top prospect. But he showed up in Double-A overconfident and his play suffered. An attempt to get stronger in the offseason backfired, as he came in overweight and lost bat speed. New York sent him to Arizona in January, and the Diamondbacks sent him and three minor league pitchers to the Dodgers for Shawn Green the next day. Navarro has a compact swing that helps him make consistent, hard contact from both sides of the plate. He's a gap-to-gap, line-drive hitter and isn't afraid to take a walk or work deep counts. A converted infielder, he has a strong throwing arm that helped him nab 33 percent of basestealers in 2004. His receiving skills are average. He never has hit for much power, however, and his lack of conditioning made matters worse. Like most catchers, he's not much of a runner. A strong finish helped Navarro salvage an otherwise uninspiring season. Though the Dodgers need catching help, Navarro clearly isn't ready yet. He needs to re-establish himself in Triple-A.
Usually it's the Yankees' money that wins out in the free-agent market, but their tradition and worldwide appeal often provides an extra boost, especially on the international front. Venezuelan scouts Carlos Rios, Ricardo Finol and Hector Rincones established a relationship with Navarro before he signed. When the Braves topped New York's $260,000 bid, Navarro still went with the Yankees because he had spent time around their staff and players in Tampa. Navarro quickly earned the nickname "Pudgito" for his defensive skills and physical resemblance to Pudge Rodriguez. Though he entered last season with a .252 career average, he has been an organization favorite since hitting .280 in his 2001 Rookie-level Gulf Coast League debut. The Yankees planned to keep him in high Class A Tampa all season in 2003, but he handled the bat so well they promoted him to Double-A Trenton by June. Nagging injuries--including an inner-thigh infection that led to a sty in his eye, and a hand injury from a home-plate collision--weren't enough to stop him from raking. His combined .321 average ranked fourth among minor league catchers. Navarro was a second and third baseman as an amateur, and his successful move behind the plate has conjured comparisons to another infielder turned catcher, Jorge Posada. While Navarro doesn't project to hit for the same power, he has separated himself from the pack by working counts and making hard contact to all fields. His set-up and smooth, natural stroke from both sides of the plate bring to mind Roberto Alomar. Navarro has a short, compact swing but manages to cover the plate, and he's tough to strike out. He stays back on breaking balls and has the bat speed to catch up to plus fastballs. He shows more power potential from the right side, though he can get a little pull-happy and could top out at 20 home runs. Navarro's cat-like quickness around the plate impresses scouts and he has above-average arm strength. Aside from not displaying big-time power, there aren't many flaws with Navarro's bat. There are mixed opinions on his defense. He needs to improve his game-calling skills, though that isn't uncommon for a young catcher. He threw out 33 percent of basestealers last year, and that number should improve with slight refinements to his mechanics. Navarro has gone from advancing a level a season to the fast track. He's slated to return to Double-A in 2004 but could find himself at Triple-A Columbus before the end of the season. A September callup isn't out of the question. Navarro should be ready to serve as Posada's backup at some point in 2005. He's in line to take the job in 2007, when Posada is due either a $12 million salary or $4 million buyout.
Signed by scouts Carlos Rios, Ricardo Finol and Hector Rincones in Venezuela for $260,000, Navarro impressed Yankees officials in his 2001 debut as a 17-year-old. Built like a young Ivan Rodriguez, who was 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds when he signed out of Puerto Rico in 1988, Navarro is known as "Pudgito." Unlike Rodriguez, Navarro isn't likely to blitz through the minors in 21⁄2 seasons. The similarities are more evident behind the plate, where Navarro used a quick release and above-average arm to erase 35 percent of basestealers for the second consecutive season. The Yankees moved him aggressively to low Class A in 2002, and the teenager ran out of gas in the second half. Navarro has a compact, direct stroke and has a solid idea of the strike zone. He uses the whole field and projects to hit for gap power, but needs to improve his approach from the left side. Navarro should climb the ladder one level at a time.
Signed for $260,000 out of Venezuela, Navarro made his pro debut at age 17 and earned all-star recognition in the Gulf Coast League. He also earned the nickname "Pudgito" for his defensive prowess and his physical resemblance to Ivan Rodriguez. Navarro used his plus arm strength, soft hands and quick feet to throw out 35 percent of basestealers. At the plate, the young switch-hitter appeared more comfortable from his natural right side but showed the ability to use the whole field from both sides. He's also a slightly above-average runner. Navarro needs to get stronger and drive the ball more, which should happen in time. He'll probably begin this year in extended spring training before going to Staten Island in June.
Minor League Top Prospects
Navarro made the biggest jump forward among the EL's catching prospects, as the others carried much higher profiles before 2003. He's still a raw 19-year-old gem, but he's a switch-hitting catcher with an advanced bat for his age. He hit .341 with good gap power in Double-A. "I can't quite believe his age. You see him and say no way could he be 19," one scout said. "There is a natural way about him in the box. He's very smooth. He looks a lot like Roberto Alomar at the plate, with an easy setup and an easy swing. If he was in the league a little longer, they may have figured him out a little more, but he showed no real weakness." While it's hard to argue with Navarro's hitting, some managers worried about his receiving skills and said he called a predictable game behind the plate. He has a strong arm but threw out just 29 percent of basestealers. He did excel at blocking pitches in the dirt.
Playing in the same league as Mauer and St. Lucie's Justin Huber, Navarro still stood out as a catcher with plenty of upside. He followed both players to the Eastern League and torched Double-A pitchers for a .341 average. Navarro projects to hit for a high average with average power. Navarro's quickness is his best asset behind the plate. His agility allows him to get to balls other receivers might not, and he can stay with pitches longer and still get off strong, accurate throws to second base, even when pitches are in the dirt. He blocks balls adequately, though his technique needs improvement. "He's advanced beyond his years as a switch-hitter," Masse said. "He's going to be the catcher in New York when Jorge Posada retires, if he doesn't push him out. I played with Posada in Triple-A for two years and he's more advanced than Jorge at this age."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Eastern League in 2004