Daniel Nava: More Than A Red Sox Feel Good Story

Why Daniel Nava is more than a bench bat with a feel good story.

“It’s a ridiculous long shot,” (Mike) Hazen said. “It’s amazing that a guy with that kind of talent has been passed-over every step of the way including the amateur draft. But Allard Baird, Jared Porter, and our scouting staff did an outstanding job of finding him and he continues to produce at every level. And if he continues to do it, he’s going to get an opportunity to play in the big leagues.”

One of the most intriguing storylines of the 2013 season so far has been the ‘surprising’ emergence of Daniel Nava. Having barely made the team out of Spring Training, Nava’s turning a lot of heads, not only with his bat, but with his stellar defense as well.

His story is well documented, not just here – but in plenty of other places, too. In fact, it’s almost too well documented. I say that because the ‘underdog who never gave up’ narrative – while inspiring – seems to be perpetuating the original problem with Nava – that everyone seems more concerned with everything going on around him than his actual talent and track record on the field.

In fact, no one should be ‘surprised’ about his recent success at all. They should have expected it. Daniel Nava is a really good baseball player who’s been egregiously overlooked for too long in a mainstream sense because writers are more interested in his story than in his actual ability.

And make no mistake about it, he has A LOT of ability.

Nava hasn’t just been a good hitter in the minors, he’s been a beast. Look at them for yourself:

• He obliterated Single-A ball, hitting .340/429/.509 in 509 plate appearances.

• He topped that production at the AA level, hitting .364/.479/.568.

• In Triple-A, his average took a bit of a hit, but by his last stint in Pawtucket in 2012, he managed to hit .313/.425/.525 – or, as we’re beginning to learn – went back to being regular Daniel Nava.

A lot of Nava naysayers like to point to his high BABIP, but that’s really more of a function of his talent, not luck. After all – good hitters tend to hit more, thus they have higher BABIP’s. But even aside from that, all his peripherals suggest that his bat and plate approach are for real. Not only has he maintained a consistent BB% and K% throughout his MiLB career, but he posted a .176 ISO as well.

So here were are in 2013, with Nava being healthy and having a year to adjust; and just like the story’s gone throughout his professional career, he’s sitting on a .289/.385/.500 line with 4 HR’s and 16 RBI’s in 91 PA’s so far this season. If he keeps this pace up, he’ll likely end up with around 25 HR’s and 85 RBI’s.

Considering his MiLB numbers, his development and what we’re seeing this year, I think we just need to admit it: Daniel Nava is more than just a nice bench bat with a feel-good story. He’s a legitimate every day Major League Baseball player.

Is he a hot bat right now? Sure. Will his production take a step back? Probably. But even if it does – and dramatically at that – I wouldn’t be able to think of a single MLB GM who wouldn’t be perfectly fine with a player who could hit .250/.360/.460 and play multiple OF positions.

In fact, what’s almost more surprising to me, at least – is how no one recognized Nava’s talent sooner. And by ‘no one,’ I’m not just talking about the media, fans and the Red Sox. Don’t forget, two years ago he was waived. Even with his track record not one, single, solitary team thought he was worth a flier.

It makes you wonder how things like that even happen.

Could it just be that Nava’s been overlooked because he just wasn’t a top prospect? Could it be because of his advanced age? Could it just have been people focusing in on what he couldn’t do at certain levels as opposed to what he could do?

Interestingly enough, about two months ago, John Kochurov wrote an absolute must-read piece for Hardball Times called Trapped in the Minors, that tackled that very same issue. The article talked about how teams undervalue players like Nava who hit well in the Minors, but for whatever reason, never really get the chance to prove themselves once they’re big league ready.

With regards to all this, Kochurov also pontificates that the next cutting-edge thing might not be some new metric or technologically-driven advancement, but rather, our ability to get out of our own way:

“Maybe it’s the same old inefficiency that’s been around as long as baseball,” he said. “(It’s) that good players sometimes get buried for no particularly good reason, and the team that can identify those players will have a massive edge over its competition.”

So in asking our question, we’re just left with more of them. But what we do know, is that Nava’s a pretty good player who should probably be in a lineup every day or darn close to it. His numbers say he should. His track record says he should. His development says he’s ready.

Still, there’s an untapped treasure-trove of talent out there for teams to plunder. If Daniel Nava doesn’t prove what good can come from it, I don’t know what does.

Categories: Allard Baird Boston Red Sox Daniel Nava Jared Porter Mike Hazen

A world-class baseball nerd, baseball fan, and baseball man, Hunter Golden agreed to terms with Fire Brand of the American League in September of 2012 in exchange for an oversized baby bottle, football helmet filled with cottage cheese and naked pictures of Bea Arthur. In January of 2013, he was named Editor. He likes run-on sentences, enjoys over-using hyphens, and smelling books. When it comes to serious stuff, Hunter is a professional writer (no, really), father of two, Husband of one and whose natural habitat is Western Massachusetts and agreeable parts of Connecticut. Follow him at @hunterGbaseball on Twitter or shoot him an email at [email protected]

7 Responses to “Daniel Nava: More Than A Red Sox Feel Good Story” Subscribe

  1. Chip Buck May 1, 2013 at 8:48 AM #

    I was a non-believer in Daniel Nava. I called him a quad-A player for years. A guy who would bounce around, but never get a real shot to stick in the majors. I was wrong. He’s like the Red Sox’s new Brian Daubauch. No real clear starting position, but someone you want in the lineup a lot because of his natural ability to hit.

  2. Gerry May 1, 2013 at 1:27 PM #

    We talk about how well young stars like JBJ and Bogaerts adapt to LF, RF, 3B or whatever and sing their praises. Here's Steady Eddie Nava who, except when injured, has continued to improve at the plate, in LF, RF, 1B and he is still considered an anomaly rather than a really good ballplayer.

    Unfortunately, with JBJ, Brentz, Victorino, Gomes, maybe Carp, the only chance for Nava to play full time may be elsewhere, which is ironic based on his true talent level.

    I never, ever liked the 4-A label. Without sufficient opportunity it dooms potentially good (league average or better) players from getting a fair shake.

  3. Lyndsay May 1, 2013 at 11:56 PM #

    I'm surprised you didn't make a comparison to Ben Zobrist, because that's exactly who he is and reminds me of. Think another team (probably not here unless there's a season-ending injury to one of the starting OFs) will give him the chance to be Ben Zobrist and start every day without being knocked back to the bench or triple A? Think they'll bump him up into the million range at some point? He's still only making Will Middlebrooks money. Always baffled me that Darnell McDonald was kept on the roster with his .200 BA for so long over Nava. One thing that is clear is that he knows how to fight his way onto a lineup – he worked on becoming a 1st baseman in spring training to spell Napoli when Napoli was an uncertain quantity, and also to give himself a better shot of making the roster. He knows how to diversify his skillset and increase his value that way. Read a Globe article about JBJ getting called up and how the first guy to give him the "here's how things work around here" speech was Nava, who gave him pointers on keeping your spot, being a good clubhouse guy, and not giving them reasons to send you back down. I think he's studied not only the game but the politics in his moves up and down the system and is a lot smarter about the game's politics than people give him credit for.

  4. Wayne May 29, 2013 at 7:08 PM #

    Everyone talks about Nava's struggles–his great "stick with it story." Why doesn't anyone mention his swing. It's as pure a swing as I've seen in 30 years. Yaz was the last guy that put a bat through the hitting zone like Nava. It's a beautiful blur–and he looks the same from both sides of the plate. His wrist action and bat speed are second to none. I was a scout with the Padres for 9 years and I never came across a swing that good. His old school two handed follow through is a joy to watch. This is a swing that comes along once in a generatioin–let's enjoy it while he's here–he's not the kind of player those "in the know decision makers" throw contracts at–'Thanks for being here Danny Boy–you're time might be short but it was an electrifing ride."

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