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March 23, 2009 at 10:04 AM

2009 Prospect Previews: Yamaico Navarro and Derrik Gibson

The 16th installment of the Prospect Previews series features a young shortstop looking to take the next step in his development within the Red Sox organization, and a 2008 Draft Pick working to open the season in full-season baseball.

Yamaico Navarro

Position: Infield
2008 Teams: Greenville Drive and Lancaster Jethawks
2009 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox

Strengths: With quick wrists, Navarro generates excellent bat speed, whipping the head of the bat through the zone and generating hard contact when he squares the ball up. His swing has some natural loft to it, and the ball comes off his bat with a lot of backspin. A line drive hitter, Navarro is adept at turning on pitches and is very fluid with his lower-body mechanics, creating a good about of torque when he drives through the ball on the inner half of the plate. There aren’t many fastballs that get by him, and he has pretty good power for a middle infielder. On the defensive side of the ball, Navarro has an above-average glove and has seen time around the infield during his career in the Red Sox organization. He’ll make his fair share of spectacular plays over the course of the season, making him an exciting player to watch in the field. His range and arm play well enough for him to stick at shortstop for at least the near future. After a strong 2008 season of development, Navarro pushed himself up the Red Sox depth chart and sharpened the focus on how he’ll project as he continues to hone his overall game.

Development Needs: Navarro struggles some with off-speed pitches and could stand to work on his plate discipline. He can chase curveballs down in the dirt and get himself out on occasion. An aggressive hitter, he’ll need to work on seeing more pitches and focusing more on the ones he can drive as he moves to higher ranks within the system, while laying off the off-speed stuff outside of the strike zone. Navarro has shown some improvement in this area already, especially during the 2008 season, but this aspect of his game will be tested when he reaches double-A. Although he is a very skilled player in the field, his footwork does need some work; he can sometimes tangle himself up, struggling with double plays around the bag. The type of hitter he ends up becoming is a bit of an unknown at this point as well, given that speed is not a huge part of his offensive package and that he’s not going to project as a middle-of-the-order run producer. Given his versatility in the field and some of the questions surrounding his bat, his initial projections were that of a utility player, but his strong season in the batter’s box in 2008 lent credence to him projecting as a major league starter down the line.

2009 Outlook: Look for Navarro to start the season with the Salem Red Sox, most likely manning the diamond as a shortstop, but also moving around the infield to keep his bat in the lineup. With a strong first half of 2009, there is a chance he could make his way up to Portland to be challenged against more advanced pitching. Navarro will make a lot of plays in the field and sting line drives around the yard. One of the main areas of development to watch for is how much improvement he makes on his plate discipline. While the goal isn’t to make him more passive at the plate, the Red Sox would like to see him working on making better decisions on which pitches to go after. An increase in his walks should follow suit, along with a reduction in the number of pitches he chases outside of the strike zone. Another area to watch for is an improvement in his footwork in the field. Strong development in this area would further round out his defensive game and go a long way towards deciding whether or not he is going to be able to stick at shortstop at the higher levels. One of the players who made good strides within the organization in 2008, Navarro is looking to take a further step forward in 2009 and position himself as one of the next wave of homegrown players to break into the Boston lineup.

Derrik Gibson

Position: Shortstop
2008 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox and Lowell Spinners
2009 Projected Team: Greenville Drive

Strengths: Gibson brings elite speed to the baseball diamond and is one of the fastest players within the organization. With his speed and intelligence on the base paths, he projects as an excellent base stealer and a player who can make an impact with his legs. Polished defensively upon entering the system, Gibson is very fluid and fundamentally sound. His great range allows him to make difficult plays look easy and get to balls a lot of players wouldn’t. He makes quick, accurate throws across the field and brings a lot of athleticism to his position. Gibson projects to be an elite defender at either shortstop or second base. With the bat, his short, compact swing is highlighted by his quick wrists. There is a lot of fluidity to his swing and some jump to the ball when it comes off of his bat. His hands are quick to the ball, which allows him to square up a lot of pitches. A highly talented player, Gibson brings a lot of energy and excitement to the field.

Development Needs: Standing at 6’1’’ and 170 pounds, one of Gibson’s biggest needs is to put some added weight on his frame. There is not a lot of power in his game, and while he does not project as a power hitter, he’ll need some more muscle behind his swing. The added weight on his frame would also keep him from wearing down over the grind of a full season of baseball. Gibson held his own in the GCL after signing, but was overmatched at the plate during his short stint in Lowell. He didn’t handle breaking pitches well and he was behind a lot of fastballs. He’ll need to adjust to professional pitching and get used to seeing pitchers with good stuff day in and day out, but this will come with more and more repetition. Gibson’s stance is on the compact side and he has a longer stride coming out of it, which can affect his timing and balance. However, his head remains pretty still and he is short to the ball. Gibson has some jerky throwing mechanics, but his throws are quick and accurate. His throwing is more of an area of possible improvement where he can further enhance an already above-average skill.

2009 Outlook: Gibson looks set to break camp with the Greenville Drive. Given the amount of polish in his defensive game, he could play either shortstop or second base; the main goal is to get him the work at the plate. Look for Gibson to use his speed to make an impact on the game. He should hit some doubles and spray the ball around the field. The biggest area of development for him in 2009 is getting the exposure to professional pitching and developing a feel for the strike zone. Signs of positive development in this area would be consistent contact and better pitch recognition on off-speed pitches. Getting comfortable in this area will allow Gibson to attack fastballs better with his smooth swing. Where ever he is playing the field, he’ll make difficult plays look easy and bring energy to the position. A new face in the organization, 2009 will be a season of initial development and exposure for Gibson, one that should lend some clues as to what type of player the Red Sox have.