Josh Naylor could break out in a big way for the Cleveland Guardians this season
It's easy to forget sometimes that the Cleveland Guardians are still the youngest team in Major League Baseball and that we likely haven't seen the full potential of many players on this roster.
In the case of first baseman Josh Naylor, it almost feels like he's a grizzled veteran with this already being his fifth major-league season, but the fact is he's still just 25 years old (for a little while longer). There is still plenty of potential in his bat, and it seems like Naylor could be close to tapping into it.
Naylor's surface-level numbers suggest a slow start to the year, as he is hitting just .200/.261/.350 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 46 plate appearances. There's no denying any of that, but if you take a look at his Baseball Savant profile, you're going to see plenty of red.
The Most Promising Stats for Josh Naylor Thus Far
Embrace the urge to become a true stat geek and throw batting average out the window for a moment. Naylor's xBA is a solid .285, and his BABIP is just .182, suggesting the hits are about to start falling. He's chasing a bit more so far this season, but Naylor is keeping the strikeouts in check and walking more.
He's also barreling up on the ball at the best clip of his career. Naylor has four barrels so far in 2023 - good for 11.4% - which has helped him put more balls in the air; he's reduced his ground-ball rate to 37% at the moment, down from nearly 50% in 2022.
All in all, Naylor has an xwOBA of .373. The overall results haven't been ideal to this point, but the underlying stats suggest Naylor is seeing the ball quite well, and it's just a matter of time before things start working in his favor. As of right now, the same could be said for a number of other players in Cleveland's lineup.