, Gloucester, MA

September 13, 2013

Nava has become versatile, valuable for Sox

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — Daniel Nava’s incredible streak of 41 consecutive starts reaching base ended Sunday in New York.

Just how good a run was it?

Well, it was the second longest such streak in the American League this summer behind only Triple-Crown slugger Miguel Cabrera’s 44-gamer. It also was longest such streak by a Boston Red Sox hitter since on-base machine Kevin Youkilis’ 44-gamer in 2008.

“He’s always been a good hitter,” Red Sox first base coach Arnie Beyeler said about Nava, who he managed at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2011 and during parts of the 2012 season.

The biggest concern with Nava was whether his offensive numbers would tail off as this season progressed.

He had never before played more than 88 major league games in a season.

Nava has gotten better later in the summer. He is batting .361 in 24 games since Aug. 1.

He’s 12th among all major leaguers (first among switch-hitters) with a .388 on-base percentage.

Nava isn’t arbitration eligible until 2015 and is under the team’s control through the end of the 2017 season. He gives Boston flexibility going forward because Nava has played all three outfield positions and first base this season.

He’s most suited for left field and first base considering he’s not the best defensive outfielder.

In the offseason, the Sox will consider bringing back free-agent-to-be Mike Napoli to play first. The free agent market is slim with Seattle’s Kendrys Morales the top hitting first baseman.

Boston also will look to add another outfielder if Jacoby Ellsbury leaves via free agency.

If the Sox fail to sign either an outfielder or first baseman, it wouldn’t be as problematic considering they have Nava and Mike Carp.

It’s surprising how patient and successful a hitter Nava has developed into considering he struggled some in Triple-A just two years ago, beginning the season in a prolonged slump before a second-half surge increased his average to .268. That came after playing 60 games in 2010 with Boston where he batted .242 with a .351 OBP.

“He went through a tough stretch there (in 2011) where some roster things and stuff got to him a little bit,” Beyeler said. “But as far as that goes, he’s always been a good hitter and he’s always gotten on base.”

In 72 games of Independent League Baseball in 2007 and 374 minor league games in parts of five seasons, Nava has a proven track record of getting on-base with a combined .415 OBP.

Beyeler agreed that Nava learning first base has made him more valuable.

“He’s also gotten more versatile in the outfield, too, where he can bounce around,” Beyeler said.

“His arm’s getting stronger. He’s done a real nice job. First base really helps him out. Especially it’s a good fit with our team here to be able to move around.

“And he works hard and he’s going to get better,” Beyeler added.

“So he continues to improve and he’s shown he can get on base up here. He had a great first half — an All-Star candidate at the back end of the first half and he’s gotten things going again and picked back up. And he’s done a nice job.”