The Naquin Factor
Tyler Naquin is sort of the forgotten first round pick of the Indians. He was drafted back in 2012 one spot ahead of Giolito and the pick surprised many, including myself. There appeared to be much better talent on the board at the time, including Giolito, Michael Wacha, and Stephen Piscotty among others. Many, including myself, thought he was another Trevor Crowe waiting to happen. He was a solid college outfielder but not much about him jumped out at you other than his plus arm. However, despite the lack of many plus skills he’s excelled thus far in the Tribe system and is now knocking on the big league door while playing down in Triple-A Columbus.
One big question mark with Naquin on draft night was whether he was a centerfielder or rightfielder and thankfully for Tribe fans he’s proved that he can handle centerfield. Being able to stick in CF has really helped Naquin’s prospect status as he doesn’t have much power to speak of. He also doesn’t have a ton of speed though did steal 14 bases in just 76 games in Double-A last year and has 13 so far in 2015. The best comp I’ve probably seen for Naquin was by Baseball Prospectus before the 2014 season when they compared him to Michael Brantley. I stress the pre-2014 part as this was back when Brantley was more of an average hitter/overall player than the near MVP guy he was last season.
Naquin’s realistic expectations should be in the 8-10 HR range with 15 steals and a 95-105 wRC+. Add in good defense in CF though and that could actually be a solid big league regular. Though on the other hand if Naquin fails to even be average at the plate he becomes more of a fourth outfielder or possibly a platoon guy. Given the current state of CF in Cleveland though perhaps Naquin will get his chance as soon as this season to try and prove he’s a legit big league starter. While I don’t agree with my colleagues that he’s the second best prospect in the Tribe system he probably is the most big league ready prospect and one that could provide immediate help to the big league squad.
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