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March 19, 2010 at 9:14 AM

2010 Prospect Previews: Felix Doubront and Yamaico Navarro

Today's installement of the series features two upper level prospects within the Red Sox system. Both players have been pushing up the depth chart of the organization over the last couple of seasons, with an eye on carving out potential future roles this coming season.

Position: Starting Pitcher
2009 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2010 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 22

Strengths: Reserved and calm on the mound, Doubront has been on the rise the last couple of seasons after struggling through injuries back in 2007. 2009 was a strong season of development for him, as he held his own in Double-A after spending only three starts in High-A during the end of the 2008 season. Featuring an 87-91 MPH fastball with some late movement, Doubront likes to use the pitch to get ahead of batters. While not overpowering with his fastball, Doubront hides the ball very well in his delivery, showing it at the very last instant before releasing it. This causes batters to pick up the ball very late and gives his fastball the appearance that it is approaching the plate faster than it really is. He’ll get late swings because of this, and it allows him to take advantage of his improving 79-81 MPH change-up that fades out of the strike zone, with some late screwball action to it. This offering sharpened into an effective out-pitch for him this past season. One scout who follows the Eastern League felt this pitch was going to be a very effective weapon for him going forward. Doubront’s delivery is very mechanically sound, and he has shown excellent improvement on cleaning up his release point and consistently getting on top of the ball to throw downhill. With more potential to fill out his frame, some believe he’ll be able to potentially add a little more velocity to operate more consistently in the low-90s with his fastball as he continues to strengthen his lower body.

Development Needs: While showing good control in the low minors, especially in 2008 with Greenville, Doubront’s control was spotty at times with Portland in 2009 and lead to inefficient pitch counts. He could stand to tighten up his control by staying a little bit more consistent within his delivery to hit his spots. This will allow him to be more efficient on the mound and go deeper into games, while limiting his work with men on base. His curveball is fringe-average and tends to be on the loopy side right now. An effective third pitch in his repertoire will go a long way towards solidifying him as a future starting pitcher at the big league level. Development with his curveball will enable him to really keep hitters off-balance given the deception he can generate. Doubront is able to get swings and misses with his stuff, but also gives up a lot of contact, especially when he leaves the ball up in the zone. This is where he gets himself into trouble, gives up his hardest contact, and can become home-run prone for spurts. Focusing on finishing more consistently out of his delivery will help him keep his fastball down in the zone, where it shows its best life and movement. Doubront has historically struggled against left-handed batters, but showed improvement in this area in 2009. Continued strides in this area will help him be a more effective all-around pitcher.

2010 Outlook: Pitching is an area of depth for the Red Sox organization, and with some fellow prospects that are a little more advanced ahead of him slated to start in Triple-A, Doubront could very well return to Double-A this season to continue sharpening his repertoire and to prove his rise in walk totals was a blip on the radar screen. His spring will have a big determination on his overall placement and he has pushed for an assignment to Triple-A in the early going, but he could end up just being a casualty of numbers in missing out on an assignment to Pawtucket when teams head north. Regardless, he’s been making good strides the last couple of seasons, and 2010 will be another test for him to make those final tweaks to push him towards the major league mix. Doubront should continue to use his fastball and change-up combo to go after hitters, while working on tightening his curveball. Being more efficient and working ahead in more counts will lead to that many more positive results for him in 2010, and show that he can go deeper into games. Doubront has impressed and showed the organization they have something to work with. 2010 looks to be a season for him to prove he can be a more consistent and effective starting pitcher in the upper levels of the minors while polishing off an arsenal that can compete at the major league level.

Yamaico Navarro

Position: Shortstop
2009 Teams: Salem Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
2010 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 22

Strengths: Navarro’s 2009 season got off to a late start when he broke his hamate bone and subsequently had surgery to remove it, but he was able to bounce back and earn a promotion to Portland after a brief stop in High-A Salem. With a ferocious swing that whips through the strike zone, he generates excellent bat speed and has good power projection for a middle infielder. Navarro is adept at turning on fastballs and driving them hard into either the left-center field gap or down the left field line. With some lift in his swing, he produces a lot of line drives with backspin when he squares balls up. He’s been a good doubles hitter in his career within the Red Sox organization, and shows surprising power in batting practice sessions, often driving his fair share of balls out of the park on a line. This lends projection that he’ll develop solid-average power as he matures more as a hitter. Navarro can play shortstop, second base, or third base defensively, and he shows good skills and instincts at all three of the positions. A natural shortstop, he’s spent most of his career playing the position, showing excellent range, fluidity, and a plus arm across the diamond. Navarro has spent the majority of the last two off-seasons in Florida working on his strength and conditioning. This work has been showing, as he’s been building muscle and filling out what was originally a light frame after signing with the organization in 2006.

Development Needs: Navarro’s aggressive approach caught up to him after being promoted to Portland, and he needs work on being more selective at the plate. Pitchers were able to take advantage of this and get him to chase pitches early in the count or bury off-speed offerings on him when they were ahead in the count. In order for Navarro to show strong contact rates and consistent solid contact at the Double-A level, he’s going to need to manage the strike zone better and get back to using the whole field like he exhibited in the low minors. He is susceptible to advanced breaking balls because he likes to get the bat head out early. Given his excellent bat speed, Navarro can afford to stay back more to cover the outer third of the plate and let his natural reactions take over on balls in the inner third of the plate. Development of a relaxed approach is a key need for him to be a productive hitter in the upper minors, and he lost key development time in 2009 that put him behind for the level in terms of this aspect of his game. Navarro has bulked up some and this has lead to thoughts that he will move off of the shortstop position despite being an above-average defender there right now. It remains to be seen how much the added muscle will affect his range and athleticism. A move to third base would put an added emphasis on his overall offensive production, as his power potential does not grade out as above-average. A move to second base would be more ideal.

2010 Outlook: Early reports on Navarro from spring training have been positive, especially with regards to his strength and physical condition. He has appeared to come into camp ready to work on his needs and get off to a fast start. Navarro will return to Portland when the full-season teams break camp for the start of the 2010 season. A lot of where Navarro is going to play in the field is tied into the highly anticipated placement of fellow shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias, as he is expected to play shortstop every day given the advancement of his defensive skills. This season will be a big year of offensive development for Navarro, and one that will focus on honing his approach at the plate. After getting a taste of the competition in Double-A, he has a better understanding of what it is going to take to be successful. By slowing down his approach at the plate, being more selective to get pitches he can drive, and dictating counts, he should return to the offensive player he has been in his prior stops and continue to push his projection as a solid offensive performer. Still young and with development ahead of him, Navarro has the makings of a position player that can challenge for a future roster spot with the major league team in the next few seasons. 2010 will lend a big clue into what type of role that may be.