In a pick that’s eerily reminiscent of the organization’s draft philosophy a decade earlier – and one that was highly unproductive – the Indians selected Texas A&M outfielder Tyler Naquin, a polished collegiate bat likely to move quickly through the lower levels of the minors but has a rather limited ceiling.
Naquin has a decent build – six-foot-two and 175 pounds – and shows above-average speed, though he takes shorter, quicker steps instead of longer ones shown by a natural glider. His base stealing improved quite a bit this season, as he swiped 21 bags in 26 attempts (80.7%), a significant step up from his sophomore season (6 bases in 13 tries). He doesn’t have elite speed like fellow first rounders Byron Buxton or D.J. Davis, but it should be enough to steal 20 to 25 bags in a full big league season.
He does possess a simple, smooth left-handed stroke with a solid approach at the plate, but ultimately lacks elite bat speed. He shows solid weight transfer and good rotation through the hips, and should produce solid gap to gap power. He hit just seven homeruns in 184 career college games, so he’ll need to rely on doubles to become anything more than a fourth – or fifth outfielder.
Now that the NCAA has instituted metal bats that react more similarly to wooden ones, it’s probably a fair assumption that the power he showed during his final season (.157 ISO) is a close approximate to his ultimate professional ceiling, assuming , of course, that everything breaks just right. The MLB league average this season is .150. At worst, he’s likely to settle in around .120 or so.
Defensively, the Aggies used him in right field, a spot reserved for more run production in the big leagues. The Indians will likely move him to center field and hope that his above-average speed will make for an easy transition, though his routes will probably have to improve.
Under current scouting director Brad Grant, the franchise arguably grabbed the best talent available in the first rounds over the past three years. Lonnie Chisenhall, nabbed in Grant’s first year on the job, should develop into a solid everyday player, maybe a four-win player if he can consistently hit lefties. Right-hander Alex White was one of the top arms available in the draft and slid all the way down to the Indians in 2009. Drew Pomeranz is a future #3 starter, maybe #2. And last season’s first round pick, Francisco Lindor, is a star in the making.
This year, though, bucked that trend. Maybe the Indians are hoping to save a little money on Naquin’s contract and spread it around in the later portions of the draft? Only time will tell.
But, for now, the Indians have Naquin, a solid high-floor, low-ceiling prospect who’s probably going to settle in around a quality fourth outfielder or starter on a non-contending team, and probably has a ceiling of .270/.330/.420 hitter.
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