Tag Archives: Omar Narvaez

Unsung Narvaez is the Patient Type

It’s been a silent triumph on the South Side for catcher Omar Narvaez—who manager Rick Renteria hinted may return as part of the fold in 2018 pending the arrival of catching prospect Zack Collins. Collins just finished out his season in Double-A Birmingham after a late season promotion.

Narvaez is top-four among MLB catchers in walk rate, on-base percentage, and strikeout-to-walk-rate—something I’m sure at least a few folks would be surprised to hear.

Also, Narvaez is currently holding onto an on-base percentage of .375, just behind San Francisco’s future Hall of Fame catcher Buster Posey. That’s quite the company.

“I just try to go hit one pitch and make sure it’s in a good spot when I hit it,” Narvaez said, attempting to uncover what makes his plate approach so unique. “That’s really it. I try to not swing when it’s not my pitch.”

That statement holds true when looking at Narvaez’s plate discipline numbers. He swings at just 43 percent of pitches he sees, putting him seventh in the league among catchers. He also has a swinging strike rate of just 5.5 percent and has the sixth lowest strikeout rate among catchers. What’s more, Narvaez makes contact on pitches in the strike zone 92 percent of the time, a top-three number in baseball for catchers.

”It’s just a continuation of his ability to control the strike zone,” Manager Rick Renteria said of Narvaez’s success at the plate. “He hits lefties well, he hits righties well. He just gives you a good at-bat and I think that’s continued to develop. He’s been more and more comfortable in the box, and he’s getting to know some of the guys that he’s been facing over time.”

While Narvaez is showing off his plate discipline at the dish, his lack of power may look a bit concerning. He currently has the second-lowest slugging average among catchers in baseball and has only hit two homers all season. But, when looking at his overall performance, Narvaez makes up what he lacks in power in his ability to take walks and hit the ball for quality contact, and he’s fine with that.

“I just try to be myself,” Narvaez said. “All the minor leagues are about are obviously [to] get there and you also have to know yourself and who you are. I’m not a home run guy and I already know that. I’m not afraid of ground balls up the middle”

Despite having a -3.9 in framing runs on the season and low power numbers, Narvaez still managed to pull of a season in which he has a wRC+ of 101, making him just around league average value, coupled with a 1.4 fWAR.

“I just try to keep from doing too much, you can see when I was trying to do too much was in the first half and I wasn’t that good. Second half was going back to who I really am and just trying to keep myself calm.” Narvaez said.

According to Narvaez, the roots of his patient plate approach date back to when he was a child. “It’s just something I learned from minor leagues and that my dad always taught me,” Narvaez said. “Going back to when I was ten years old, if you look back, all my family plays baseball. I kind of have that in my blood. Just listening at the dinners we had as a family it’s all about baseball, I was a kid running around but still listening to what they were talking about and I learned a lot.”

When it comes to that signature plate approach, Narvaez has a player that reminds him of himself in mind.

“Joe Mauer is kind of like me,” Narvaez said.

Mauer had a career high OBP of .444 in 2009 and has managed to maintain a career on-base percentage of .391. Not a bad player to take cues from.

“He’s kind of an opposite way guy, there’s just something about watching him in the big leagues. It’s a lot of fun,” Narvaez said.

Narvaez is correct. Mauer has a career opposite field percentage of 38 percent, as opposed to his career 24 percent pull rate. Narvaez has a career 35 percent opposite field percentage, and a pull percentage just a tad lower at 33 percent.

While Narvaez may not receive a ton of time behind the dish, and may not be as well recognized as newcomer Kevan Smith, his ability to keep his strikeout rate low and get on base are invaluable. What he lacks in power, he makes up for in plate patience and high contact rates. If Narvaez does end up back in a White Sox uniform in 2018, you’ll certainly be able to catch him on the base paths almost as much as you do behind the plate.

White Sox Hot Corner Picks Up Steam

It’s finally happened. The moment all White Sox fans have been waiting for. No, not Carlos Rodon making his season debut. Or Yoan Moncada being called up to the majors. Alright, so maybe not everyone is waiting for it, but it still happened — Todd Frazier got his batting average above .200 this season.

The 31 year-old third baseman known for his home run hitting prowess has been the subject of quite a bit of concern due to his abysmal numbers beginning the final season of his two-year contract with the White Sox.

But things are on the upswing. Currently, Frazier is sporting a line of .222/.327/.438 with the second highest ISO on the White Sox (min. 200 PA) at .216—just behind Avisail Garcia. All this looks a lot better for Frazier than it did say, about a week ago.

The interesting thing to pick up on here is that while Frazier is maintaining an average OBP this season, his BABIP is sitting at just .237—the lowest on the team by nearly 50 points. That indicates that Frazier has had a lot of balls fall in places that make for some pretty bad luck so far this season and yet he’s still maintaining a healthy enough OBP considering the fact.

The reason for that? Frazier is walking a ton. He’s walking at a 13.4 percent clip, nearly four percentage points higher than any other year of his career and the highest on the White Sox just behind Omar Narvaez (although you could consider them tied, seeing as they’re separated by .1 percentage points).

“The average isn’t there, but if I had this batting average with a .250 on-base percentage, I’d be worried,” Frazier said of his low batting average yet defendable OBP. “But I have an approach that works for me and, eventually, once it clicks, it’s going to be pretty good.”

So what’s the difference maker been for Frazier? It’s definitely walks, but how is he suddenly tightening up his plate approach seven years into his major league career?

“I’m seeing a lot more pitches for the first time in my career,” Frazier said of his approach. “It’s good. It means I’m not swinging at that many balls, staying in my zone.”

His plate discipline numbers certainly back up that claim. Take a look at the difference in the numbers simply from 2016 to 2017:















Quite the difference. Frazier is swinging outside the zone less and swinging less overall than he did last season. Let’s now take a look at how that’s effected his contact rates:












In a single word: positively. Though he’s swinging at fewer pitches outside the strike zone by far, he’s making more contact on those pitches and more contact overall. He’s just not being handed a ton of luck on those pitches, which is well-illustrated by his extremely unfortunate BABIP.

Things should be picking up for the slugger; this type of bad luck is only sustainable for so long. Should Frazier pick it up soon, he could become trade bait for a team looking for a push at the deadline. With just over half a season left on his contract, however, combined with his age and his declining skill set, it’s not likely Frazier will bring a lot back in a trade. Though he’s showing the ability to be proactive and work with what he has at the plate, that doesn’t mean that Frazier will turn back into a perennial All-Star or Home Run Derby champ again.

For now, Frazier’s value lies in his ability to get on base, hit home runs (he’s tied for the team lead), and bring a bounty of character and leadership to the ever changing and very youthful landscape of the Chicago White Sox clubhouse. Those thing are all worth keeping Frazier around for.

White Sox by Position: The Catchers

As fall heads turns winter and the playoffs roll on, we start our positional check-ups for the White Sox. Free agency will be here soon enough and the White Sox could be at the epicenter of the trade market but, like the team itself, knowing what’s on hand is the first step to improvement.

Coming into the 2016 season, the White Sox signaled a shift in their expectations for the position. Tyler Flowers, an elite pitch framer and top-notch defensive catcher with little prowess at the plate, was released. In came Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro.

Avila and Navarro were expected to be offense-first backstops. Both had different types of offensive expectation (Avlia a walk-first, low average hitter and Navarro a more hack-friendly guy with a bit of pop) but neither reached their highest level of play.
Though Avila started clicking in the month prior to his second groin injury (.279/.405/.475 from June 1 to July 5th) the results from the rest of the season were underwhelming. Navarro was, unfortunately, dismal.
Defensively, both were regarded as less then optimal framers but their ability to handle a pitching staff was well regarded by past teams. Sox pitchers they worked with over the course of the season praised them for the same.
While the pitches called for the Sox over the season may have been more right than wrong, their ability, or lack thereof, to frame pitches was costly. Both Avila and Navarro were toward the bottom of the pitch-framing barrel this season and it essentially melted away the bottom of the strike zone for White Sox pitchers. In a year where Chris Sale altered his pitching philosophy (and still came out as one of the best 10 in MLB) and Jose Quintana had his best season yet, it makes you wonder how good they might have been with even an average framer.
With Navarro sent to the Blue Jays late in the season and Alex Avila set to be a free agent, it’s possible for the White Sox to completely revamp the position in the off-season. One of the options may be on the roster already.
The bright spot in the Bigs was Omar Narvaez. Called up before his time, Narvaez put together quality at-bats and handled himself well-enough behind the plate to warrant a boost in his overall stock and the potential to be a back-up catcher for the Sox in 2017. Narvaez can improve defensively, however, and doesn’t offer much pop (he slugged .337 over 117 plate appearances with just one home run in 117). The Sox would have plenty of reason to keep Narvaez at AAA to start the season depending on their route in free agency.
While the Winter of 2016 lacks the star power of of 2015, there may be a few quality options sprinkled throughout. Jason Castro makes sense as a defensive whiz. He won’t offer much at the plate (88 OPS+ in 2016) but the Sox have been there before. Matt Weiters took the qualifying offer from the Orioles last season but had a disappointing year. His future with the O’s is a murky one and could be worth a buy if the price is right.
Wilson Ramos had an incredible season for the Nationals and Washington’s season might still be going if not for his tearing an ACL late in September. He was set for a big deal this off-season but with the injury taking him out of at least half the 2017 season, his contribution to a new team will be cut down.
Sox fans should be familiar with Zach Collins. The 10th overall pick from the University of Miami has a great deal of expectation on his shoulders. Collins is getting work in the Arizona Fall League and will need to prove his ability to stay behind the plate but the bat seems advanced in its discipline and provides plenty of pop. Collins’ impact at the Big League level likely won’t be felt until 2018 at the earliest.