While the Chicago White Sox waited to contend again, Omar Narvaez was the catcher from 2016-2018. It was good to have him during the harder times.
At age 16, former Chicago White Sox catcher Omar Narvaez was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays. He played in a few international leagues like the Venezuelan Summer League and Gulf Coast League. In 2013, however, the White Sox selected him in the Rule 5 draft.
He then spent two and a half years in the minors. Starting with Low-A Kannapolis, he was promoted to High-A Winston-Salem. Narvaez would spend the entirety of his 2015 with the Dash but would split time between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in 2016. On July 17, Narvaez made his major-league debut against the Angels. In his first at-bat, he ripped a double off of Jered Weaver. His first MLB home run would come in a few months. He hit his first dinger against the Twins on September 30, which is also his father’s birthday.
He served mainly as a backup to Tyler Flowers in 2016. In 34 games, Narvaez ended his rookie year batting .267 with a .350 on-base percentage. Not exactly super-star numbers, but it was solid production provided by a player acquired in the Rule 5 draft.
Narvaez never actually held the starter spot, always splitting time with another catcher or two. In 2017, Kevan Smith, Geovany Soto and Rob Brantly made up the catching core. In 2017, he played in seven more games than ’16 but still split time with Smith and Welington Castillo
In his total of three years with the White Sox, Narvaez hit a slash of .274/.366/.379 with an OPS of .745. He hit 12 home runs and drove in 54 runs in 221 games. All in all, he was not the worst part of the rebuild. If Narvaez was allowed to take the starting role, play more games, and not split time with other catchers, he might have had the chance to break out as a solid backstop.
He will not hit many more home runs, but his .366 White Sox career OBP says that he gets on base at a decent clip. A chance to work in more at-bats and gain more experience could have helped him provide stronger numbers at the catcher position in 2019.
We did get to see how Narvaez could fare if given a full season of play, but not in Chicago. In the off-season before the 2019 season, the White Sox dealt Narvaez to Seattle to acquire the current closer Alex Colomé.
In 2019 for the Mariners, Narvaez played 132 games. He slashed .278/.353/.460 with 22 home runs and 55 RBIs. Of course, what stands out the most is the 22 home runs he hit. Now with Yasmani Grandal, James McCann and Zack Collins on the roster for the Sox in 2020, Narvaez does not fit in with this core.
In his time with the White Sox, Narvaez provided solid numbers out of a position that was a consistent anchor holding down the rest of the lineup for a while. If he was given the chance, he could have shined, backed up by his numbers in Seattle. In the end, Grandal and McCann are just better options. Dealing him to acquire what would be the team’s best bullpen pitcher was ultimately a smart move.
In 2020, Narvaez will actually be Grandal’s replacement in Milwaukee. The Brewers sent RHP Adam Hill to Seattle for the 28-year-old Venezuelan. He is projected to hit 17 home runs with an average of .274 and OBP of .356 by Baseball-Reference. If the White Sox were still rebuilding, those would be fantastic numbers. Now that the team has a proven All-Star, the expectations are a little higher.