When the Pirates traded away minor leaguer Brooks Pounders, along with Diego Goris, on the eve of the Rule 5 draft last December, the initial thought was that the Pirates were losing not only one of the best named pitchers in the organization, but someone that we had hoped would be a pretty good pitcher for the Pirates someday. Anytime there is a trade when you aren’t familiar with the person coming in return, you tend to think that you are losing out on something. And when that someone was a 2nd round pick just a couple of years ago, it makes you wonder why the team is bailing on him already. After all, you can never have too many arms in the system, and although Pounders wasn’t really a power arm, he did have a K/9 rate of just under 10 last season. Plus we added in a 21 year old infielder in Goris, who had never played anywhere but the Dominican Summer League, and you start to expect to have gotten something significant back in return.
The book on Yamaico Navarro was that he is a decent offensive infielder who has glove issues. And so far in spring training, Navarro has been as advertised with the bat. He is hitting .366 with a .934 OPS through 41 at bats, with 1 HR, one triple and a double. He has only 5 strikeouts and is coming off of a four hit game yesterday against the Astros, with a 3 hit game in the books from a couple of days prior.
Defensively, he has been adequate as well, committing only 1 error so far in spring in over 84 innings of manning multiple positions, mostly second base. But Navarro has also played SS, 3B, LF and RF in the 20 games of spring training to date. He did commit 8 errors in Omaha last year after getting traded to the Royals (from Boston for Mike Aviles), but it appears that he has shown steady if not spectacular improvement in the defensive category.
Navarro is looking more and more to have a decent shot to make the Pirates opening day lineup as a utility infielder, although much depends on what happens with Pedro Alvarez and who will be needed as backup infielders. You would have to think that Josh Harrison has a pretty good shot at that spot as well, though I would like to see him play every day in Indy and not fall into the utility role as I think Harrison could be an every day player in the majors. It seems like Navarro could very well end up as an everyday player as well, and his defense, especially at shortstop, will likely determine whether or not that happens. But so far this spring, his offense brings something to the table that we haven’t seen often before, and that makes it fun to keep an eye on.