‘Catching’ up on the 2013 Draft

Major League Baseball’s First Year Player Draft, also known as the Rule 4 Draft, is the most extensive and elaborate draft in all of professional sports. The National Hockey League entry draft lasts seven rounds as does the National Football League draft. The National Basketball Association draft lasts for just two rounds drafting a maximum of 60 players.

The MLB draft was actually reduced to 40 rounds in 2012. Under the new format Mike Piazza – drafted in the 62nd round in 1988 – would not have been drafted. I expect the discrepancies among the drafts is a result of Major League Baseball’s extensive farm system with parent teams such as the Dodgers having seven minor league affiliates. The NFL and NBA have no such pipelines for developing players and the NHL has a very limited farm system of perhaps two teams.

At first glance the 2013 MLB draft was a successful one for the Dodgers, although not overwhelming. It did pale in comparison to 1968, the Dodgers best draft ever, but so do most drafts. The 1968 Dodger draft is widely considered to be the best in MLB history. Fifteen players from that draft made it to the majors including Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davy Lopes, Bill Buckner, Doyle Alexander, Joe Ferguson and Tom Paciorek.

In 1968 the Dodgers drafted eight catchers, none of whom ever played at the MLB level. Joe Ferguson was drafted as an outfielder and split his playing time between catcher and right field.

The Dodgers selected six catchers in the 2013 MLB First Year Player Draft (Photo credit - Mike Stobe)

The Dodgers selected six catchers in the 2013 MLB First Year Player Draft
(Photo credit – Mike Stobe)

In the 2013 draft the Dodgers selected six catchers in the 40 rounds of the draft:

  • Kyle Farmer – 8th round 
  • Spencer Navin  – 11th round
  • Sam Finfer – 29th round (did not sign)
  • Ryan Scott – 30th round
  • Kaleb Holbrink – 35th round (did not sign)
  • Jake Sidwell – 39th round (did not sign)

Kyle Farmer and Ryan Scott have previously been profiled on ThinkBlueLA leaving Spencer Navin as the lone 2013 Dodger catching prospect whose resume has not been detailed on TBLA. An eleventh round selection, Navin signed for a bonus of $300,000. Perhaps as an indicator of the Dodgers interest in Navin, he was signed for $200,000 over slot. Players drafted after the 10th round don’t count toward a team’s bonus pool as long as they sign for $100,000 or less. The $200,000 excess to sign Navin counted against the Dodgers’ draft pool.

Spencer Navin is "...a baseball rat." (Photo credit - Dave Martin)

Spencer Navin “…is an absolute baseball rat.”
(Photo credit – Dave Martin)

The 6-1 185 pound catcher first gained attention as a student in high school. He is a graduate of Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa. At Dowling Navin lettered in baseball, football and basketball serving as captain of the baseball and basketball teams in his junior and senior seasons as well as captain of the football team as a senior. He was recognized in all three sports – as a first team All-State player in baseball and football, a three-time All-Conference selection in baseball, twice in football and once in basketball.

Academics didn’t take a back seat to athletics as Navin became a member of the National Honor Society and winner of the Vonnie Hess Award. Selection to the National Honor Society is based on four criteria: scholarship, leadership, service and character.

Spencer Navin decided that baseball was his athletic career of choice and registered at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. After careful consideration he made Vanderbilt his choice because of the coaching staff, having family in Nashville, the campus and playing in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) noted for its strength in athletic programs. For two consecutive seasons (2011-12) the Vanderbilt Commodores’ freshman class, under head coach Tim Corbin, was tabbed as the nation’s best by Baseball America, becoming the first school in the poll’s 13-year history to post back-to-back top classes.

In three seasons at Vanderbilt Navin hit .294 with 7 home runs and 61 RBI in 115 games started. He had an overall OBP of .426, walking 55 times while striking out 88. Defensively he compiled a .986 fielding percentage while catching 35% of would be base stealers. In 2013 he had a fielding percentage of .993 while committing only three errors in 56 games.

While at Vanderbilt Navin again was acknowledged for his athletic and academic successes:

  • 2013 Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American
  • 2012 SEC All-Tournament Team
  • 2012 SEC Academic Honor Roll
  • 2011 SEC Academic Honor Roll

Spencer Navin’s scouting report included a few lines that caught my attention: “This kid is a baseball rat. He tried to lay down two bunts with two outs and no guys on 3/9/13. An extremely hard worker, saw him back up a play on an error down the line not allowing the runner to advance. Dudes arm is amazing. He has the arm to get drafted on his arm alone.“

The scouting report concluded: “Navin is one of those guys you just have to go watch play. He is an absolute baseball rat and is one of my favorite players to watch. He works extremely hard out on the field and does all of the little things correctly. He is amazing behind the plate and has posted some solid offensive numbers at the same time. If he can increase his power production and get that slugging number a little bit higher he could be a solid backstop at the next level.”

Tim Corbin has been the Vanderbilt head coach for twelve years. He too has high praise for Spencer Navin: “Spencer may be the most talented catcher we have had in our program. He’s tough, durable and possesses overriding arm strength. He competes as well as anyone we have on our club. We will be very reliant on his leadership behind the plate. He is a very competitive hitter as well and a big part of our offense.“

Navin had an uneventful season with the Ogden Raptors of the Advanced Rookie Pioneer League in 2013. He had only 25 plate appearances with a batting average of .190. Behind the plate he threw out four of ten base stealers. A right-handed hitter, Navin turned 21 on August 11, 2013. I expect he will return to Ogden in 2014 and have regular playing time as Kyle Farmer will most likely move up to the Great Lakes Loons of the Class A Midwest League to begin the 2014 season.

Navin will have to compete for time as the Dodgers also signed two non-drafted free agent catchers in Dimitrios Papantonopoulos from Cal State Dominguez Hills and David Reid-Foley from Mercer University in Georgia following the 2013 draft. Papantonopoulos (23) appeared in nine games with the Raptors in 2013 while Reid-Foley (23) appeared in 16 games with the AZL Dodgers. Interestingly enough, if Dimitrios Papantonopoulos makes it to the big leagues, he will have the longest name in baseball history – surpassing current leader Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

I certainly hope all of these young catchers do well and can forge a career in baseball. However, Spencer Navin being two years younger, may well have an inside track.

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3 Responses to “‘Catching’ up on the 2013 Draft”

  1. MFGRREP says:

    Once again Harold great article on a player most of us knew nothing about.

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