Earlier today we took Steve Henson behind the woodshed for referring to Dioner Navarro as a “middling” catcher and for suggesting that if the Rays have any interest in winning, they should draft Buster Posey. A little voice in our head kept telling us that we we weren’t doing Navi enough justice in our evaluation. So we dug a little deeper.

Heading into tonight’s game, Navarro has an OPS of .831 (.391 OBP + .440 SLG). That seems pretty good, but we wanted to know exactly how good that is for a young catcher.

In the expansion era (since 1961) only 11 catchers posted an OPS higher than .831 in their age-24 season or younger. The list is a who’s who of modern catchers…

If we look at adjusted OPS (OPS+; OPS adjusted for park and league; 100 is league average), Navi’s 131 would be in even more rarefied air…

There are quite a few Hall-of-Famers and near-Hall-of-Famers on those lists. But hey, maybe Steve Henson thinks Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Carlton Fisk, Joe Torre and Gary Carter were “middling” catchers also.

[Ed. note: when running this through Baseball-Reference's "Play Index" we only included catchers that had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting crown. If we removed that restriction, the only difference in both lists is the addition of Brian McCann's '06 campaign (age 22), in which he was 10 plate appearances short of qualifying. He would be #1 on the first list with a .960 OPS and #5 on the second list with 143 OPS+]

 
 

8 Comments

  1. Jake says:

    For every Bench, Carter and Piazza….you can see there’s a “Nokes” to show that there’s a downside to it.

    I believe, if we pick Posey(like I hope we will), Navarro shouldn’t be involved in the reason who we draft. A number of scouts that I know believe that Posey is a legit top 5 pick talent. His ceiling may not be Alvarez and many people believe that he’s not an “impact” player…but his downside is still in the range of being an “above-average” overall catcher. If he only tops out at hitting .280 and 10-15 HRs, he’s going to be a top 5 defensive catcher in the majors.

    Pedro Alvarez may be the best future power hitter, but who is dumb enough to pay the 8-10 MIL bonus and major league contract demands for a future 1B?

    Beckham is the best prep talent, however I doubt many have seen video of his ugly, hole-filled swing and noticed that he’s less-than-sound fundamentally as a SS.

    There’s pro’s and con’s to all 3 candidates, but Posey is no fluke by all means. He was an 1st team freshmen all-american SS, a 2nd team all-american catcher as a sophmore(with Wieters being the 1st teamer) and a 1st team all-american as a junior. He was a 1st round talent going into this season, his improvements in hitting this season just changed which part of the round that he’d be picked in.

  2. The Professor says:

    c’mon Jake…look at the second list. in the top 8 there are about 600 all-star appearances and there is Matt Nokes. Certainly it is possibly to be a fluke, but the fact that there is only one “Matt Nokes” on the list says more about being the exception rather than the rule.

    Besides, Nokes shouldn’t of even been a catcher. He was an AWFUL defensive catcher and if you ever saw Nokes play you knew that rookie year there were holes in his swing as big the grand canyon and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the league found them. He is the definition of a fluke.

    and while Navi will never have the power numbers of some of these guys, his OBP and his strikeout:walk rates and his line drive% suggest that this season is not a fluke and he will be able to maintain high OPS

  3. DirtbagFan says:

    Far be it from me to correct you on your own site, but the title of this aticle should read, “…An Historic…”, as opposed to, “…A Historic…”

  4. The Professor says:

    WRITING TIPS

    Both usages are sufficiently common to be considered correct in modern English.

  5. Scott Brannelly says:

    First off let me say thank you for commenting back to me and being so cool about it. As we obviously disagree about Navi’s ability and upside, you made some very good points about him. I’ll disagree that he doesn’t have holes in his swing but that’s just two men arguing baseball. I agree to your stakes as they are completely fair and creative. I think you guys are very good over here and I’ve actually followed you for years. One thing I will amend to the stakes (which will make it harder on me if I lose) is that I’ll agree to come up with 10 positive things about Navi. I’ve already eaten crow on Bartlett and have been positive on him since my idiot statements about him early on. I’ll still do 5 things on him but I’m going to up it to 10 on Navi to make it fair. I appreciate you coming over and giving me feedback, much less acknowledging me and am glad this appears to be a friendly back and forth with us. Keep up the good work and I look forward to a great Rays season with lots of chat and excitement.

  6. The Professor says:

    appreciate the kind words.

    as for the bet. sounds good. i will mention something tomorrow.

  7. VoiceOfUnreason says:

    I’m having trouble following the methodology that includes Navarro 2008 but misses McCann 2006?

  8. The Professor says:

    this was not mentioned in the post, but I only included players that had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

    In ’06 McCann came up 10 plate appearances short.

    I went back and reran the same parameters WITHOUT the minimum plate appearances restriction, but keeping the min 100 games as a catcher and the only difference in both lists is McCann’s ’06 season.

    He would be #1 on the OPS list with .960 and #5 on the OPS+ list with 143

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