After taking arguably the biggest reach in the first round, the Cleveland Indians have given themselves more outfield depth in the minors with Texas A&M outfielder Tyler Naquin.
The left-hander was one of the best players on a strong Aggies team, as he was voted team MVP the past two seasons and was a third team All-American in 2012. His senior year he batted .380/.458/.541 while swiping 21 bags in 26 attempts.
As I said in my original write up of the 6’2″, 175-pounder, this pick reminds me of the Indians selecting Trevor Crowe with the 14th pick in the 2005 draft. We’ll have to wait and see if Naquin’s career path is similar to Crowe’s, but some signs point to him finding more success.
Despite the fact ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him as only the 42nd best prospect in the draft (MLB.com ranked him as the 30th best prospect in the draft, while Baseball America had him at 25), Naquin does have some nice tools. Law ranked his outfield arm as a 70 on the 20-80 scout rating scale and notes that it’s “one of the best in the draft this year on any position player.” Baseball America‘s Conor Glassey gave him even higher praise, calling him “the best pure hitter in this year’s class.”
Naquin also possesses plus speed, which bodes well for his chances at staying in center field, as some are not sure if he can play there long-term or not. I think he should be able to stick there, making him look like the long-term option for Cleveland in center. LeVon Washington still possesses considerably more upside than Naquin, but he’s still very raw and his Major League prospects are very much up in the air. And Naquin should be able to move fairly quickly through the minor league ranks, meaning Michael Brantley will be able to move to left field permanently.
Power will never be a part of Naquin’s game, but he should be a high-contact line drive hitter. If he can shorten his lengthy swing that will help even more. This makes him look like his value will lie in him being a top-of-the-order hitter with great defense in center. Overall, he should be an above-average center fielder if everything works out.
The most interesting thing about this pick is that Naquin was selected over quality pitching prospects like Chris Stratton and Michael Wacha, Just about everyone expectEd Stratton to be the Tribe’s first pick, with Wacha also a likely option. But no one saw Naquin coming.
One possible reason for picking Naquin is the way the new draft format works. Each team has a certain amount of alloted money they can spend on their draft picks dependent on each slot recommendation. Reaching on a player like Naquin could be because the Indians are targeting some big name prep players in later rounds of the draft that they want to have extra money to sign.
If Naquin signs for under the slot, he could be a solid outfield addition to the farm system and open up cash for the Indians to get some guys with signability concerns that most other teams will shy away from later on. The Indians will have that financial flexibility and could lure away from big recruits from top programs as the rest of the draft plays out.
The Indians have $4.5 million for their first 10 draft selections, and the 15th pick is valued at $2.25 million. For comparison’s sake, Francisco Lindor signed for a $2.9 million bonus. While many were not pleased with Naquin as the top pick, it will be interesting to see what the Indians do with the extra money assuming he signs under slot.