Tyler Naquin was a player that had a lot of questions that pertained to his skill coming out of Texas A &M. The No. 15 overall pick in 2012 was a lanky center fielder that had decent speed, along with an average bat and arm. He was immediately sent to Mahoning Valley single A. In 36 games, he hit .270, with 13 RBIs and four stolen bases. He did not record a home run.
One of the first things Naquin mentioned, was that he wanted to add muscle to become a power hitter. It has been a slow process, but the numbers are starting to show. In the Arizona Fall League, he hit .269 with 10 home runs, 48 RBIs and 15 stolen bases combined. It is a major improvement from his time in Mahoning Valley by far.
The increase can be attributed to a change in his hitting and mechanics. Instead of standing upright as he did in single A, he lowered his hands on the bat, and his hips, in order to drive the ball more fluidly. The numbers that Naquin and Ross Atkins, who is the vice president of player development, aren’t there yet, but the potential still is.
Scouts so far label Naquin as a “good,” singles hitter. He can hit into opposite sides of the park, and can get the easy doubles. He is a player that right now would hit at the top of the lineup, rather than in the bottom. However, Michael Bourn has the top of the lineup locked down, for years to come.
Naquin is ranked as the fifth best prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization, according to MLB.com. He will most likely start the year off in AA Akron, and then move up the chain to making his way to the big leagues. He will get a chance to play with his possible future teammates in spring training. However, the chances of him making the 40-man roster are slim.
Unless Naquin has a Babe Ruth like performance in the games, he will not make the team. There is already a log jam at center field. Michael Bourn is the starter. David Murphy, who was added in free agency, is also capable of playing center field, along with camp invitees Jeff Francoeur and Nyjer Morgan. There just isn’t any room, and management wants to keep Naquin strictly as a center fielder.
Naquin has a ways to go in his development, but the 6-foot-2, 175 pound center fielder will hopefully be polished, and turned into the power hitter he wanted to be originally when he is finally called up to the major leagues.