WTNYJanuary 05, 2005
Dodger Dioner Detailed
By Bryan Smith

One inevitable piece of ranking prospects is the "Honorable Mention" group, the players you simply couldn't find room for in your rankings. This year, with the new responsibility of ranking 75 prospects, I have allowed myself 15 in the honorable mention category. These players will come after my top 75 is revealed, but since one of them has been in the news of late, I thought it would be a good time to talk about him.

In this year's rankings, I will balance the rankings with detailed reports on some players, and the usual, more concise reports on others. The detailed reports allow me to contribute bits and pieces I found through the game-by-game logs at Sports Network, which provides most minor league teams with the statistics available on their site. The problem with this, is that TSN is hardly perfect, oftentimes leaving the game-by-game data, and season-ending stats conflicting. But nonetheless, I'm never off by too much, and my findings are far too interesting to keep to myself.

Today, to both prep you for my upcoming rankings, and give you some insight on how they will look, I'll present a detailed report on Dioner Navarro. His world has likely been spun upside-down in the last few days, when he went from being a Yankee, to a Diamondback, to finally a Los Angeles Dodger. I'll say that I think Navarro will have a nice season in the hitter-friendly stadium in Las Vegas, prompting many to call for his arrival in Hollywood. But, there is a definite possibility that Mike Rose will out-hit Navarro in the Majors, and Russ Martin do the same in the minors.

But that's enough babbling on about Navarro, of whom I present my first detailed prospect report:

Dioner Navarro- C- Los Angeles Dodgers- 21

Pardon me while I scoff at the Yankees for a second. Excuse me for gloating Yankee fans, but I don't get to do this very often. I found the handling of Navarro, who prior to the 2004 season was universally regarded as their top prospect, laughable. It's hard to blame a player's performance on upper management decisions, and I'm not doing that here, but any choice that could slow the development of such a talented player is ludicrous. There is a reason this farm system has been in the dumps for the past few years, and blaming it on their trades is not sufficient.

What am I talking about? First let me begin in Columbus of the International League (AAA), where Navarro was on the roster from June 28 until late August. During his two month stay with the Clippers, the eventual first-place club played 65 games. My beef with his handling stems from the fact that Navarro played only forty games in AAA, getting 136 at-bats when he could have had up to 221. Instead, Navarro's playing time sometimes dwindled to every other day, preventing a rhythm that was surely somewhat behind his great outburst in AA a year ago. But hey, the 33-year-old catcher Sal Fasano needed time to boost the .701 OPS he had last year, or maybe try to make it to the Majors somewhere, since his career .215/.300/.390 line won't be one to show the grandkids in years to come). Anything to preserve that all-important International League West Division Title I guess, one that they won by a 13-game margin I should mention.

Navarro is an extremely streaky player, which as I said, is my main problem with the 'every other day' philosopohy. Sure, it didn't prevent him from a 14-game hitting streak that spanned from July 31-August 19 (three weeks for a two-week hitting streak). Still, the more reps the better return, which is an important aspect for any Yankee prospect. Navarro was streaky all season, pretty much alternating good weeks with bad ones. An average that stood at .319 on April 26 was down to .267 by the end of the month, then back to .298 by May 11 and down to .255 a week later. But then began a different streak, a solid one, in which he hit in 17 of 20 games (including 12 in a row), collecting 28 hits in 83 at-bats, and enough for a .458 slugging. That's the best you're gonna get from this kid let me tell ya.

And that's my other problem with the Yanks and Dioner (not the power, we'll get to that in a minute), which is the timing of his promotion. When the aforementioned streak ended on June 7, Navarro was hitting .292. Why not promote him then? Or wait ten days, when his average would still be as high as .290. But no, the Yanks wait to the pull the trigger a bit too long, immediately promoting him after a streak in which he had all of five hits in 34 at-bats, and saw his average slip to .271. Whether that explains why he began his AAA career at 4/31 I'm not sure, but it probably didn't help. Simple negligence.

As a player, Navarro holds two major weaknesses: work ethic and power. The former idea was conceived when Navarro reported to Spring Training a little chubbier than how he finished it, which is one explanation for why his defense slipped a bit this season. I like to believe this problem will come with maturity, since age (he turns 21 in February) is one thing on Dioner's side (that and great contact skills). As for power, I'm just not so sure here. His highest monthly AA ISO was .101, and he was no lower than .097. This is roughly indicative of what Navarro should be able to offer in the Bigs, especially considering Dodger Stadium. Even Sal Fasano could top that.

Comments

Hey Brian,
Good piece - thanks for the detail. As a yankee fan and as a guy who loves to see homegrown talent, I like to think that the two top pieces of the Yankee system (not saying much, I know) stayed in NY. I'm talking about Eric Duncan and Melky Cabrerra. Of course, with how the Yanks throw prospects away...who knows how long they will stick around. Still, those were the two guys I didn't want to see get away...and luckily enough, they're still here. I still think Halsey will be more than adequate given time but hey, it's the Yankees, right? Outside of that, giving up Navarro is not fun but you're right - he could have been handled much better. It'll be interesting to see how he develops in LA.
Here's to 2005 being the year that Duncan & Cabrera establish themselves as bonafide prospects rather than just some of the best prospects that the Yanks have.

James--
I agreeon Duncan and Cabrera being the top two prospects, though I think Cabrera and Cano are a toss-up at this point. And Duncan, he's bonafide.

I agree that Dioner has probably been a little overrated, and that he likely won't be a superstar, but I can see him developing into an overall player that's better than half of today's starting catchers, and that's gotta count for something... I also suspect he has a better chance to stick at catcher long term than other, more powereful catching prospects, who will eventually move on to less taxing positions.

Bryan,
Thanks again for the excellent review. How big is Navarro? For some reason, I remember him being described as kind of a small guy.

I am too one yankee fan who wants to see homegrown talent. I seem to be in a small majority when it comes to that subject. As the past year went on I realized how overhyped Navarro was.I'm not that saddened to see him go. This past draft the yankees drafted another promising catcher from what I understand. His name is Nate phillips and is 18 yrs. old. I read he has a cannon of an arm and has the potential to hit 30hrs. He has been called the heir apparent to posada. But because of his age I won't get too crazy. I agree with the assumption that Duncan and Cabrera could be the Yankees Top prospects. I hope the Yankees try to make Duncan a First Baseman because AROD isn't going anywhere. Cabrera who's an outfielder could fit nicely in the near future if he develops like they hope he does. However, lets' not forget about Robinson Cano. I was hoping the Yankees would finally bring him up this year but that was squashed after they signed Womack to a 2 yr deal. Another season at Columbus probably won't hurt him either so he can work on his plate discipline and all around game. I hope he gets a serious look sooner than later. I also hope the Yankees Organzation realizes the Farm System has to be restocked. No more trading young players either. The Yankees not too long ago had one of the best farm systems and now it has been called mediocre at best by Sickels at Espn.com Feel free to email me your feedback. Also, I can talk a bit about other prospects that I feel can maybe make an impact. Cheers

ryan, Just a question, i got this link from someone i know and i just read your lot on Arod being still at third and therfore duncan should move to first. Well i'm not sure how this will be interpreted, but what if Jeter went to CF, Arod back to Short and Duncan at Third? Just a thought.