Look, we all know by now that the Tampa Bay Rays have a pretty talented team this year, and that their league-best 33-22 record is no fluke. We know about BJ Upton, and ROY candidate Evan Longoria, and aces Kazmir and Shields. But had we quite realized that even their catcher, Dioner Navarro, is looking like the second coming of Tony Gwynn, slashing line drives left and right and batting .361 despite his equally Gwynn-esque portly frame?
This is the kind of performance that screams “fluke.” After all, this is the same Dioner Navarro who posted batting averages of .227 and .244 in his previous two seasons. We can also note that Navarro has an unsustainably high .404 BABIP so far this season.
But if we look closer, it becomes clear that Navarro has likely turned a corner in his career. At the All-Star break last season Navarro was batting an atrocious .171. Then, he switched to a new bat, changed his stance, and began going the other way more. Since then, over a span of 299 at-bats, he is batting .314.
While the high BABIP indicates that Navarro is certainly not the next Tony Gwynn, even if his BABIP were to regress to the mean, he would still be one of the better hitting catchers in baseball. And despite having been a starting catcher for 3+ seasons in the major leagues, he is still only 24 years old.
So I think it is safe to say that we can now add Navarro to the rapidly growing list of extremely boneheaded blunders made by Dodgers GM Ned Colletti. Originally a Yankees prospect, Navarro had been desperately coveted by Colletti’s predecessor Paul DePodesta, and finally secured as the centerpiece of a trade for slugger Shawn Green. Colletti then promptly appeared on the scene and shipped Navarro off to the Rays for Mark Hendrickson, who put up truly atrocious numbers as a Dodger, going 6-15 with a 5.01 ERA in 198 crappy innings of work before being non-tendered last winter. Yep, that’s all the Rays had to give up to get what looks to be a star starting catcher for years to come.
Nice one, Ned.