Mar 11, 2012; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Efren Navarro (31) at first base as Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart (2) leads off during the fifth inning at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
A light hitting, defense first, almost 28-year old first baseman, stuck behind Albert Pujols isn’t exactly a guy that will be on the casual fan’s radar, but Efren Navarro could carve himself a solid role with the Los Angeles Angels this season. With Pujols getting older and having recent injury issues which will likely land him in the DH role at times, and the departure of Mark Trumbo this off-season, a solid OBP defensive wiz could see some good playing time.
When Trumbo was dealt, most got excited about the possibility of prospect C.J. Cron making the big leagues, me included, but it is becoming more and more clear that seeing him before mid-season would be a big surprise. Instead, the backup first base job is open for Navarro to win, especially when taken into account Kole Calhoun is currently listed there on the Angels depth chart, despite also being listed as the starting right fielder.
Navarro is far from being a power bat, with a home run rate of 1.2% in 3,429 career minor league plate appearances, and a 5.8% doubles rate, but he has put up a solid .295 average. In 2011, while with the Angels Triple-A affiliate Salt Lake Bees, Navarro won the Rawlings Gold Glove as the best fielding first baseman in the minor leagues. His minor league accolades also include being named to two All-Star teams, and a career high .859 OPS in 2013.
He first got a September call-up in 2011, and again saw some time in the big leagues in 2013, but managed only 12 games and 18 plate appearances between the two seasons. In that small sample size, his lone extra base hit was a double and he worked three walks to post a good OBP of .353, which was very similar to his minor league OBP of .359. Judging by some of Navarro’s minor league stats, he looks a lot like Doug Mientkiewicz but with less power.
Navarro is not someone that should be drafted in any fantasy league, or even a guy the Angels want to count on for large stretches of the season, but he could be a great defensive replacement. With a line-up that includes Mike Trout, former MVP Josh Hamilton, a 29 home run man last year in Raul Ibanez, and the previously mentioned Pujols, Navarro can slide into the back of the roster and be a valuable piece on a squad that has intentions on competing for the division this season.