I listed seven current members of the Boston Red Sox on Thursday who were capable of turning the season around. One of the seven players that were mentioned was outfielder Daniel Nava, who appears to be finding his rhythm in mid-June after a rocky start forced him to Pawtucket for nearly a month.
The 31-year-old got off to a disappointing start to the 2014 season, hitting just .149 with a .509 OPS over the first few weeks of the year. The Sox had seen enough after 17 games and 75 plate appearances, sending him to the minors to get his game back together.
Since being called back up to the big club on May 24, it appears the stay in Pawtucket did just what it was supposed to do to Nava. And that was get his mechanics back in order and playing in the mindset that made him an everyday player for the better part of 2012-13. In 12 games, he’s hitting .281 (9-for-32), with all nine hits coming in his last 22 at-bats. Nava looks more like the player who hit .303 in 2013 as opposed to the player who couldn’t hit his way out of a paper bag in April.
The re-emergence of Nava can only be a good thing for the Red Sox.
Granted, Nava won’t make Sox fans forget about Dwight Evans, but he can do the job. Simply put, he’s a solid baseball player. He does nothing great, but he does a lot of things well. He’s a solid hitter, he can put together impressive at-bats, he’s a speedy baserunner and he’s sound defensively. Nothing great, nothing flashy. Just solid.
And that’s what the Red Sox need right now, particularly in the virtual black hole that is the outfield, and the virtual black hole that is the bottom half of the batting order. John Farrell would love to have less of Jonny Gomes on the lineup card. He just needs more of another player who serves as a nice counterpart.
If you’re looking for a switch hitter who can hit right-handed pitching (.287 career vs. righties), Nava is that guy. And we saw that in 2013, when Gomes and Nava formed one of the top outfield platoons in baseball. The two players combined for 126 runs scored, 216 hits, 25 home runs, and 118 runs batted in during the Sox 2013 championship season. They were the leaders of the pack (Gomes 65 games, Nava 56) in a left field corps that also included Mike Carp (31 games), combining to hit 18 homers, 101 RBI and a .790 OPS.
The Red Sox led the MLB in runs scored in 2013 because of that depth in the batting order. Not because of the table-setters at the top, or the mashers in the middle, but the guys in the 6-7-8-9 holes that extended the lineup. Nava was the key ingredient to that recipe that left bad tastes in the mouths of many pitchers.
The Sox don’t need Nava to be a .300 hitter. If he can be .260, .270, or .280, that would be more than welcomed. A big upgrade over what’s currently at the bottom of the lineup.
The Red Sox struggles offensively and in the outfield are well-documented, and Nava could be just what the doctor ordered.