6/23 PawSox Update: Navarro, Lavarnway, Iglesias, and More

Andrew Miller, Michael Bowden, and Josh Reddick may all be on the big league roster, but there are still plenty of intriguing prospects and young folk worth mentioning in a PawSox update thanks to some recent promotions from Double-A. And, unlike some of the promotions of prospects at the lower levels, these players have kept performing, though, not every update in today's look at Triple-A is a positive one.

Yamaico Navarro missed a chunk of the season due to a DL stint, but he is back and playing once again. He has just two hits in his six games since returning, but was playing very well prior to the injury: he has a season line of .278/.391/.528, with strikeouts in 15.6 percent of his plate appearances, walks in 12.5 percent, and five homers.

Pawtucket is emphasizing his future as a utility player, with Navarro playing four games at second, nine games at third, six at short, three in left, one in center, five in right, and even two as the designated hitter. With the way Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron have been scuffling, and the Red Sox possible desire to make sure Josh Reddick continues to get at-bats every day, Navarro may end up in the majors sooner than later. 

One would hope after his great start to 2011 that he would be able to perform better than he did last year in the majors, when he hit .143/.174/.143 in 46 plate appearances while looking completely lost at the plate: he struck out 17 times in those 46 plate appearances, and drew just two walks. With Drew Sutton currently up and Reddick seeing time with Carl Crawford on the DL, Navarro has a bit more time before he is needed, so we'll get a chance to see if his bat can come back to him.

***

Che-Hsuan Lin hit .268/.373/.333 for Double-A Portland, once again putting up an unimpressive batting line that was buoyed by spectacular defensive play and his ability to run the bases well. He was shipped to Pawtucket, and has hit .288/.356/.350 in his first 91 plate appearances there, roughly in line with his career numbers (.263/.357/.360, 2,022 plate appearances).

Lin is never going to hit well, but he knows how to draw a walk, and has loads of value in the areas of the game that don't require a bat. His future is as a fifth outfielder who would be the designated defensive replacement and pinch runner for a club, so he won't need to be able to carry his weight offensively, but knowing he could hit a little would be good. 

You do have to say this about Lin, though: his ability to be consistently adequate regardless of the level is somewhat amazing. He has never been truly challenged, but never truly succeeded, either. He just kind of... is, every year, every level. It will be interesting to see if big league pitchers are the ones who finally challenge him enough to kill his on-base value and force him into a defense/baserunning only role, but we're not quite there with him yet.

***

Ryan Lavarnway was also recently promoted, but unlike Lin, he made his presence known in Pawtucket. In his first 31 plate appearances at Triple-A, the backstop has hit .393/.452/.714 with two homers and three doubles. He has done nothing but hit since 2009, so this shouldn't be a surprise:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG
2009 21 Greenville SALL A 466 115 36 2 21 50 113 .285 .367 .540
2010 22 Salem CARL A+ 360 88 18 0 14 44 62 .289 .392 .487
2010 22 Portland EL AA 190 45 9 0 8 26 42 .285 .395 .494
2011 23 Portland EL AA 239 59 5 0 14 25 47 .284 .360 .510
4 Seasons 1368 333 76 2 61 156 290 .284 .375 .508
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/23/2011.

The question, as always, is where his defense is. The Sox moved him up to Pawtucket, one step from the majors, so it can't be a worrisome concern, but it is, of course, something worth looking at. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek combining into a solid catcher unit this year, there is no real pressure on Lavarnway to be ready right now, so he should get the rest of 2011 to work on things, and maybe get a chance to play in 2012 with the big league club. Assuming, of course, he keeps on raking, because that's where his real value comes from.

***
There isn't much to say about Jose Iglesias, except that he isn't hitting, still, and is playing fantastic defense as expected. The Red Sox would know better than I, but his struggles at the plate -- 29 strikeouts against 8 walks, just two extra-base hits in 192 at-bats -- have reached the point where he may need to step down a level to Double-A in order to right himself. Given his awful line of .224/.262/.234, you could make the case he didn't finish learning everything he needed to in Portland. 

He has a bright future, but this isn't helping the idea that his bat won't play well in the majors. Maybe the 2012 timetable -- which always seemed aggressive but also seemed possible -- should be pushed to 2013, with Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro once again manning the position in order to give Iglesias's bat more time to reach the realm of adequacy.

***
Felix Doubront has managed to go most of an entire month without hurting himself*, and has pitched very well in that stretch. He has 17 strikeouts in his last 20 innings (against eight walks), pushing him to 40 whiffs in 37 innings on the season, with a 2.7 K/BB ratio.

Besides health, command is the major worry with the young lefty, so seeing a 2.7 K/BB ratio is a good sign, even if his 3.6 walks per nine doesn't seem great. It isn't, but if he can punch out a batter per inning or more, it is certainly more than tolerable. 

The Red Sox want Doubront to be a starter, which is why he didn't get the call when Rich Hill hurt himself and Hideki Okajima requested a trade rather than be recalled. With Andrew Miller now in the majors, Doubront has competition for the fifth spot in the rotation in 2012 -- it will be interesting to see if his role changes once again, assuming Miller is successful in his stint.

*Crosses fingers

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