Before I start, I am not going to lie to you and tell you that I know what kind of a player the Indians are getting in OF Tyler Naquin. I have never seen him play. However, I have done enough reading over the past few days to be aware of his skill set and what he potentially can bring to the table for the organization.
In case you have been living under a rock, you know the Indians are in dire need of some outfield help. Above A ball, there is really nothing in the pipeline you would consider a top tier prospect. It has left the Indians very thin and vulnerable at the positions. Their current left field state has become a disaster. Their centerfielder Michael Brantley, is the guy they would prefer to be in left long term. That moves the hole back to the center of the diamond. So the Indians decided to hopefully take care of that with their first round pick.
They took Naquin with the 15th selection overall in the 2012 MLB Draft with the hopes that he will become their centerfielder of the future. Despite the fact that he played a corner outfield spot at Texas A&M, the scouts say he should have no problem making the transition to center. the 6’1, 175 lb left-handed bat is known as a high-average, speed guy, and was rated as the “best pure hitter” in the class by Baseball America. Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com’s draft and prospect expert, had Naquin ranked 30th overall, and had this to say about him leading up to last night’s first round:
Naquin brings a lot of qualities to the table, but some of it doesn’t add up, making some wonder if he’s a bit of a “tweener.”
Coming from a top-notch program, Naquin has a great approach to the game and plays it the right way. He has a smooth swing from the left side and can spray line drives all over the field. He will occasionally show some leverage and loft, but hasn’t really shown much power to date. He’s a solid-average runner with excellent baserunning instincts which allow him to take the extra base and steal some bases. He might have the best outfield arm in the Draft class, a true plus. He shows pretty good range from the outfield.
Here’s where it gets confusing. Naquin has the arm for right field, but not the power bat typically associated with the position. He has some skills for center field, but hasn’t played there much and might not have the range. Still, his ability to hit, run well, throw and play the game with plus baseball IQ should have plenty of suitors.
In this three seasons as an Aggie, Naquin hit .348 with seven homers, 49 doubles, 112 RBIs in 187 games. As a sophomore, he was a first team All-American. During this past season as a junior, he hit .380/.458/.999 with 21 steals. You worry about the lack of power, especially considering the Indians don’t have many power prospects in the minors to speak of, but as former Tribe GM, now MLB Network analyst Jon Hart said last night, “power develops late.”
Naquin himself says it wasn’t his job to hit for power with his college team.
Indians director of amateur scouting Brad Grant had plenty of things to day about their newest member of the organization.
On Naquin’s potential move to center field:
He’s got a wiry, strong, athletic body. He’s playing right field right now, but with his tools, his speed, his instincts, his arm, we feel he has the ability to play center field in pro ball.
On his bat/lack of true power:
He’s got really good bat speed. He’s got a knack for centering the baseball, and he drives the ball the opposite way very well. He’s got more power than some guys give him credit for. He has the ability to drive the ball to the gap. He has the ability to turn doubles into triples, and he’ll occasionally pull a ball out of the yard, too.
On the decision to go for Naquin at 15, where some had his as a bit of a reach there:
We had our board up in order of how we would select them. Tyler was the next guy up. He was the guy that we liked best and who was available on our board at the time.
On what Grant saw when scouting his defense:
“[He'd take] the ball off the right-field wall, picked it up with his bare hand and thrown a runner out at second base. He’s got a well-above-average arm.
The Indians clearly recognized that they had to draft a college outfielder who could rise quickly in the organization and make his way to the majors sooner rather than later. They believe they got their man in Naquin. It also needs to be noted that the new rules are now in place where teams have a certain amount of money they can spend on their draft picks. So signing a guy like Naquin for less that the slotted $2.25 million and having him be the player they are hoping they be, can only help them “overslot” in the later rounds. (Save your “The Dolan’s are cheap” bit for something else, plenty of other teams went this route last night as well, and the one place the Dolan’s have been more than willing to overspend is with their draft picks.)
The draft will continue today, with the Indians making their next pick at #75. I would expect that Grant and his staff would be targeting college arms with their next pick.