The Portland Sea Dogs gave out Hanley Ramirez bobblehead dolls this past week.
Could another young Dominican shortstop be honored someday by the Sea Dogs?
Maybe Yamaico Navarro seems like a long shot to get his own bobblehead doll.
Ramirez, 26, was one of the most dynamic players to wear a Sea Dogs uniform in 2004 and ’05, even if he did not always show his potential.
Of course, Ramirez’s talent is coming through now as a three-time National League All-Star with the Florida Marlins.
Navarro, 22, was recently promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after playing parts of two seasons with the Sea Dogs. He has never been touted as highly as Ramirez, although he has been selected for a couple of All-Star teams in the low minor league levels.
There are similarities: Both came into the Red Sox system as athletic shortstops with five-tool capabilities.
Both enjoyed success at the lower levels of the minor leagues, but both have had their effort questioned.
Ramirez was always the star in the making. Although he received a signing bonus of just $20,000 as an international free agent in 2000, he soon was tabbed the Red Sox organization’s No. 1 prospect by Baseball America for three straight years, 2003-05.
But Ramirez ran into discipline problems in the lower levels and occasionally appeared complacent in Portland. He batted .310 with five home runs in 32 games in 2004, but only .271 with six home runs for the whole 2005 season. His expected promotion to Pawtucket never came.
Boston still liked Ramirez’s talent, but traded him to Florida after the 2005 season in a deal that landed the Red Sox Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.
Navarro also signed as an international free agent in 2005, with a $20,000 signing bonus. But he lacked the publicity that followed Ramirez. Navarro is also more introverted, compared to Ramirez’s smiling, fan-friendly persona.
Navarro moved up the ladder fast, batting .348 in advanced Class A Lancaster (Calif.) in 2008. Baseball America ranked him Boston’s No. 10 prospect.
In 2009, Navarro underwent surgery for a broken hamate bone, but recovered quickly to hit .319 in advanced Class A (now in Salem, Va.).
Navarro was promoted to Portland and hit only .185 in 39 games, although he did bat .298 in his final 14 games.
The knock on Navarro has been his effort. Scouts at Hadlock Field have questioned his lack of hustle. Once, Navarro grounded into a double play and was running up the baseline still holding his bat.
Baseball America dropped Navarro to No. 12 in this year’s prospect rankings, stating that “Navarro needs to work harder and deliver more consistent effort.”
Navarro moved to third base this year with the arrival of hot prospect Jose Iglesias and made some sensational plays, showcasing a quick glove and strong arm. With Iglesias hurt, Navarro moved back to shortstop and still made head-turning plays.
Navarro’s offense has been coming on since a slow start. He left Portland with a .274 average, eight home runs and 16 stolen bases. And his effort recently was noticeably better.
The Red Sox must make a decision regarding Navarro in the offseason. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft and with his tools, another team will surely take him if Boston does not protect him on the 40-man roster.
It makes sense that Boston will keep Navarro. He may not be another Hanley Ramirez, but he can be very good.
How good? That appears to be up to Navarro.
OTHER RED SOX minor leaguers will be available for the Rule 5 draft if Boston does not place them on the 40-man roster. They include former Sea Dogs Lars Anderson and Bubba Bell, now with Pawtucket; Sea Dogs catcher Luis Exposito; and two hot prospects in Salem, pitcher Stolmy Pimentel and infielder Oscar Tejeda.
STILL OTHER Red Sox minor leaguers appear ready to say goodbye after this season, including two former Sea Dogs, catcher Dusty Brown and first baseman/outfielder Aaron Bates.
Brown, 28, will be out of minor league options after this year. He cannot be returned to Pawtucket next year unless he is taken off the 40-man roster, which would allow another team to pick him up.
Brown began the year as Boston’s No. 3 catcher, but a thumb injury slowed him and the Red Sox traded for Kevin Cash. The Red Sox have since traded for catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Bates, 26, was called up to Boston in July 2009 when the Red Sox needed a solid defensive first baseman because Kevin Youkilis was hurt. But Bates never got back to Boston, even during the September call-ups.
And Bates has been bypassed continually this year, watching minor league free agent Ryan Shealy sign during the season and get promoted to Boston. Bates is batting .232 with nine home runs in Pawtucket and is a candidate to be designated for assignment.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: