Freedom High School grad Joe Navilhon

Freedom High graduate Joe Navilhon is currently playing for the Detroit Tigers Double-A squad. He hopes to one day reach the Major League level.

Photo courtesy of Steve Miner

In 2016, the Detroit Tigers used a 21st-round draft pick for pitcher Joe Navilhon, a graduate of Oakley’s Freedom High School. 

Navilhon’s road to being drafted was anything but easy, as he went through surgeries and different schools before finally finding his path. But despite the bumpy road to being drafted and then taken in the later rounds, Navilhon isn’t simply still with the Tigers organization. He’s working his way through it quite well.

After spending the remainder of 2016 in short-season A-Ball, Navilhon spent 2017 in Class-A, Advanced-A and Double-A. He spent the 2018 season between Advanced-A and Double-A. He’s currently in Double-A with the Erie Sea Wolves, but has spent time in 2019 with the Toledo Mud Hens, Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate.

Between Double-A and Triple-A, Navilhon has posted a 4.15 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 41 strikeouts over 30.1 innings and 19 appearances. He’s also recorded one save.

Navilhon’s game checks many of the boxes that MLB teams often look for out of relievers. His walk rate (nine in 30.1 innings) is more than passable, especially for a pitcher who records more than one strikeout an inning. 

Additionally, Navilhon brings another coveted skill for relievers to the mound: consistency. For pitchers out of the bullpen, it can be very challenging to keep numbers like ERA and WHIP down. One bad outing can really throw the numbers off, and it can take relievers a long time to work the numbers back down. 

To some extent, Navilhon has fallen victim to that this year. He had one bad outing — recording no outs and allowing seven earned runs in a spot start. Still, the fact that he has solid numbers shows how well he’s pitched every other time he’s taken the ball. Over 18 of his 19 appearances, Navilhon has a 2.08 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.

Certainly, a lot needs to happen for Navilhon to receive a major-league promotion. That said, given that the Tigers are a struggling team, they’re likely to unload some of their relievers. That will open up doors for younger players to get the promotion to the majors. 

If Navilhon continues to pitch as well as he has through the early part of 2019, he’ll be an awfully tough name to ignore.