GLENDALE, Ariz. — Omar Narvaez’ accelerated climb to the major leagues after the White Sox claimed him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2013 surprised even him.
“I never thought I would get to the big leagues last year,” Narvaez said. “I was going to take it step by step, goal by goal.”
Rated by Baseball America as the best defensive catcher in the Sox system, the left-handed hitting Narvaez was playing Class A ball at Winston-Salem as recently as 2015. He opened the 2016 season at AA Birmingham and was promoted to AAA Charlotte after only 13 games, mainly because of injuries higher up in the Sox chain. After 41 games at Charlotte, the Sox called him up on July 6 when Alex Avila went on the disabled list.
He has stuck ever since, and while he’s not the Sox’ catcher of the future — that title belongs to 2016 first-rounder Zack Collins — Narvaez has the tools to establish himself as a career backup at a premium position.
The first reviews on Narvaez were favorable. Sox pitchers said they liked working with him, and he batted .267 (with limited power). He came to camp this spring figuring to share catching duty with veteran Geovany Soto.
Narvaez is 5-for-13 (.385) in Cactus League games. Settling in and feeling like he belonged last season boosted his confidence.
“A lot,” Narvaez said. “It’s a mindset. Even being a rookie, I felt like this is for me.”
Soto, 34, has been a big help.
“Every day is a learning process,” Narvaez said. “Every day we learn something. I’m learning my pitchers, how to call the game, and having Soto here has helped me a lot. With everything — mechanics, even during the game if I did something wrong he’ll come at me in a good way. He’s been helpful.”
The Sox play two games Sunday, at 2:05 p.m CST (Channel 9) against the Texas Rangers and at 9:05 against the Dodgers. Both games are in Glendale.