It's easy to forget that Daniel Nava isn't one of the youngsters. He showed up from the minors for the first time in 2010, and he certainly doesn't look like a wizened veteran.
That being said, Daniel Nava is not 24, but 29. He will turn 30 before the 2013 season begins. It's not the ideal time for a career to start in earnest, but one has to imagine that Nava, given his long improbable story, will simply be happy that he finally seems set to start a season with a major league team.
It's an honor Nava earned early, not late. Back in June, I was asking if Nava wasn't an All-Star--or at least playing like one, since a combination of reputation and a delayed start to his year would keep him out no matter what. From there it was all downhill for Nava. The left fielder went 2-for-5 on the 24th, and didn't have another multi-hit game until September.
As far as Nava fell--all the way down to a .742 OPS by the end of the year--it doesn't discredit his season as a whole. For starters, there's the mitigating factor of injury. Nava missed almost all of August with a wrist injury, and seemingly tried to play through said injury for a while, likely contributing to his slump. Even with that factored in, though, a .352 is nothing to scoff at. Nava showed an impressive ability to draw walks, even while putting up just a .243 batting average and .390 slugging percentage.
It's not entirely clear just how sustainable that will be, but it will probably help that Nava is set to face almost exclusively righties in 2013 as a member of a likely platoon with Jonny Gomes. Against them, Nava managed a line of .270/.385/.416. He's not going to scare RHP, exactly, but he can punish them enough for throwing middle-middle that they'll have to mess around with the corners enough for Nava to be able to put his impressive batting eye to good use.
The Red Sox will likely have to put a bit more trust in Nava then they'd like to heading into 2013. So far, they are a bit thin in terms of left-handed hitting, leaving Nava's spot in that left field platoon. As with most of Boston's positions, it's one where they could find themselves exposed, or could enjoy surprisingly high levels of production depending on whether Nava's late-season slump was a matter of a mediocre player coming to Earth, or a breakout year being stymied by injury. For Nava's part, he will likely be thrilled just to have the opportunity.