Friday, August 7, 2015

A trip to Cedar Rapids: Brian Navarreto

Brian Navarreto is, for me, one of the more intriguing players on the Cedar Rapids roster. Maybe it's not so much Navarreto who intrigues me as the idea of Navaretto -- a young, projectable catcher. The Twins really haven't had one since the Wilson Ramos trade half a decade ago.

Navarreto is one of three catchers the Twins took in the first nine rounds of the 2013 draft, A Puerto Rican who attended high school in Florida, he was the only high schooler among the three backstops. The college guys, Stuart Turner and Mitch Garver, got the higher assignments and remain higher on the organizational totem pole -- Turner at Double A, Garver at High A.

Navarreto is 20 now and still rather young for the Midwest League. He hasn't hit all that well at Cedar Rapids: .242/.271/.301 slash line entering Thursday's game, with just one homer.

Navarreto had two hits in four at-bats Thursday; this followed a one-for-four performance on Wednesday. He struck out once in those eight plate appearances, and hit ground balls in the other seven. He was reputed when drafted to have good power, but power and ground balls don't go well together.

Hitting is only part of the catching job, of course, It's not only a premium defensive position, it is perhaps the most technical and the most difficult for an outsider to evaluate.

But to these decidedly amateur eyes, Navarreto looks like he can be a competent receiver. He did have an awkward passed ball in a crucial situation Thursday -- putting the go-ahead run on third base with no outs in the ninth inning -- but he looks like a quiet, stable receiver.

He certainly throws well. On Wednesday he gunned down a pair of base stealers and picked off another base runner. He's thrown out more than half the would-be base-stealers this year and did the same last year. Throwing is the easiest part of catching to see and perhaps the least important of the defensive skills a good catcher has, but he does have that tool.

The Twins have a catching problem in the majors -- they're going back to Chris Herrmann as Kurt Suzuki's backup -- and there doesn't seem to be a good all-round alternative in the advanced minors. Turner looks like the second coming of Drew Butera, and Josmil Pinto's not only a flawed receiver, he's missed literally months with a concussion.

Navaretto's youth gives him a chance to develop into that kind of catcher, but if it happens, it won't be soon,

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