Mid-Season Scouting Report: C, Dioner Navarro

Growing up a second baseman, Dioner Navarro is following the path of current Yankees' catcher Jorge Posada to Yankee Stadium. Already considered the top Yankees prospect, Navarro has several "plus" tools to help turn him into a potential start down the road. Find out more about Navarro's game and his background in Andy Braunstein's scouting report from the "Braunstein Report". PinstripesPlus Club Members can find out right now.

Name: Dioner Navarro
Pos.: Catcher
DOB: 2/9/84
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: Both Throws: Right
High School: Only 9th & 10th grade
College: None
How Obtained by Yankees: International Free Agent Signed 8/21/00.
Awards: GCL All-Star ‘01

Tools: For-Avg - 6 (Scale of 8), Power - 6, Speed - 4.5

A catcher who can switch-hit, that's good just by itself. That at age 19 he has has a solid 6 bat speed (which easily could go to 6.5 or beyond), and has 20 HR power makes him a formidable offensive force. His stance enables him to take a pretty quick path to the ball. Hands, once held much higher righty, have leveled off to be both top shoulders, parallel to the end of his body and just draws them back a tad. His feet do pivot from mostly open to neutral as he lifts it just a tad, 1/2-1", and just that small amount, if at all, forward. Feet are in middle of the box. He does lean so hands are even with the edge of the plate. Naturally pitchers like to work him inside. In previous years, pitchers would go inside often and early.

In 2003 he showed remarkable patience...3.8 pitches/AB. Navarro doesn't like the curveball and/or slider, but will take them, sometimes much to his chagrin. If he is struck out by one of them, it's looking. What he likes to do is wait, get ahead in the count and then he can jump on the fastball. Thought it's what he's looking for, he has shown remarkable prowess to hit the change-up hard and far, a remarkable 3-4 w/a D, HR.

He's a better and stronger hitter from the right side, though with more RHP than southpaws, most of the time he's hitting lefty. His 4-16 w/D is not the kind of #s one likes to see so may not switch-hit for long if this trend continues. Not that happy with his spray chart, it shows a definite penchant for pulling the ball both as a left-handed or right-handed hitter. The few times the ball travels the other way it was because he was late or didn't get much on it.

Navarro's power is derived from his strength, his lower body is pretty thick, some may say pudgy, and his follow-thru and the planting of his front foot. Except for raising his hands to try to get even more momentum when striking the horsehide, he can step into the pitch more. He does mistime the ball pitch, and when he does, he hits them flat-footed so he isn't able to put much of a charge on the ball. Navarro doesn't strikeout that much, and though no way is it his future home, did lead off one year and has hit 2nd. Future ML spot in the lineup is 5th to 7th. He has some speed for a catcher, we believe we got him at 4.15 on a bunt from the left side, but most of the time he'll run at 4.3 or higher. Whatever speed he may have, after years of squatting behind the plate, most of it should be squeezed out of him.

Tools: Arm - 5-5.5 (Scale of 8), Blocks - 5, Calls/Game - 5.5

That he as been a catcher ever since he turned pro (three years ago), combined with the fact that he has been able to handle a AA pitching staff, is a sign that he can eventually become a frontline Major League catcher. Navarro acknowledges he has a lot of work to be done on getting in front of pitches in the dirt. Game calling is coming along though he's behind his more experienced mates. His arm would improve greatly if he transferred the ball quicker. His throws are usually on the money and his CS percentages have been on the increase, 31% ‘01, 36% ‘02, 44%, while attempts/game are down, 1.44 ‘01, 2.78 in ‘02 and 1.15.


Cup of Coffee: 80%
Stay a Bit: 50%
Regular: 40%
Star: 20%

There are some prospect raters who place him on top of the Yankees prospect list. That may be due more to the absence of bonafide prospects than his credentials. But catchers are a strange group. At the other positions tools manifest themselves pretty easily, but for catchers it takes time, and with all the responsibilities behind the plate, it takes a toll on their hitting. Navarro draws a lot of comparison to Jorge Posada. Posada started out as a second baseman for his first year or two and both bats have started slowly though have great potential. The best Posada hit was .280. most of the time 260s and 11 HR. Navarro has the ability to follow in his footsteps and arrive at a much earlier age than Posada. There are some roadblocks: he has to up his defensive game, while making more consistent contact. At his age, he has a number of years for the best of the Yankees coaches to iron those wrinkles out. If he does, the Yankees already have shopped Posada around last year, if a new and improved model came along, New York may opt for that one. If not, Navarro makes great trade bait.

If Venezuela is an indication of how baseball could work in a soccer-mad South American world, then there's hope. For as Dioner Faviau Navarro says baseball is now "king", a game he played ever since he was 4 years old playing T-ball. A game his whole family played, his uncle, a third baseman, going further, playing for town teams. And with each success of one of his countryman in the Majors, it fosters ever more hopefuls.

The success of Venezuelans in baseball, where if they fielded a World Cup team, would be a top contender, is in contrast to the struggles they endured in soccer, trying to compete with football powerhouses Brazil, Argentina and Columbia. There may be some other countries out there like Equador, Paraguay who also fall under the Big 3's shadow and their youth may be amenable to trying their hand at the American past-time.

Navarro's story cannot start without bringing up his name. Dioner's name isn't common at all in Venezuela or anywhere else on the planet. It is a gift from his Mom, who he says either saw it it a magazine or maybe just made it up. And just in case one was wondering, there was a Dad involved in all this, a security manager at a hotel, enabling Dioner's Mom to be a stay-at-home housewife to tend to an older brother (a catchers who got up to Babe Ruth ball) who has lived in Spain for the past four years, a younger brother (a shortstop), and a sister.

His name isn't the only unique thing about him. In only three years in the United States he has mastered English. While many of his fellow Latinos stay within their clique, and rely on bi-lingual Hispanics or the few words they are able to master, Dioner theorized that he has to communicate with all pitchers, be able to understand his coaches and thus, he embraced English, forcing himself to communicate in this foreign tongue, speeding up the learning process. Helping was his girlfriend, now wife, sorry ladies, a Floridian of Puerto Rican descent.

But before that could happen he had to get noticed by the pros. And noticed he was. His ex-agent, Carilla who left the business, (he's now represented by Scott Boras, an indication of how valuable a commidity he is as Boras only represents thoroughbreds) took him around to 9-10 camps to shop the 16-year old's wares around. The Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees were the heavy suitors with the Yankees having the better offer.

Once a pro, the second baseman was approached by his new bosses to try catching, a move predicated by his slowness. Always keeping an eye on the future, if squatting behind the plate was his ticket to the "Bigs", then he made the move to catcher and vowed to make the best of it. Just to illustrate how difficult the transformation was, at the beginning he didn't like balls in the dirt because he was afraid of them hitting him.

At least his conversion to catching took place in his homeland. Signed when he was 16, school became a thing of the past, the farthest he went scholastically was 9th or 10th grade. At the baseball academy it is 8 AM breakfast, then drills with a game at noon, followed by exercising in the gym.

Coming to the mainland was a major event. It was the first time he was in a airplane and he has a dreadful fear of heights. It didn't help he was given a window seat. The next time he flew he made sure it was on the aisle.

There was also the normal adjustment to the American life, the food, the customs as well as the usual missing family and friends. Naturally he rang up a huge phone bill calling home everyday.

His career has been on the fast track, and it isn't by accident, a blend of ability and hard work, of overcoming fears of flying, the ball, and a new land and language. The Major Leagues are no longer a distant dot on the horizon. It is looming and for Navarro. he has to take one more step: from the safety of riding a bus city to city, to having to step on a airliner with his Major League teammates, something he will do with poise and composure, but a aisle seat please.

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