If your first thought when you hear the name Tyler Naquin is “Oh, that’s the guy Cleveland reached for in the 2012 draft,” then please, stop thinking.
No, Naquin was not supposed to be drafted as highly as 15th where the Indians took him. No, that does not make him a reach. Carlos Correa was not the top prospect in the 2012 draft, yet Houston took him with the first pick. Why was that? To save money on that pick and allocate those funds to other picks in the draft. Why did the Indians take Naquin with the 15th pick? For the same reason.
Signing Naquin for an under-slot bonus was the Indians thinking ahead of the times with the new draft rules in the MLB. By saving bonus money, the Indians could select guys like Mitch Brown, Kieran Lovegrove and D’Vone McClure later in the draft, when teams were passing on those prospects because they couldn’t afford to sign them. Instead of taking the high-upside prospect early, they got more depth later. In the MLB Draft where busts are aplenty, that’s how you win.
Not that Naquin isn’t a pretty good player in his own right. Many scouts pegged him as the player most likely to win a batting title in the draft, as his hit tool is a definite plus. His swing is long, but his wrists are quick which leads to a lot of solid contact and line drives. This limits power, but even with a shortened swing Naquin would hardly have much power anyway. Making contact and getting on base to utilize his above-average speed is the extent of Naquin’s offensive skill set, which plays well in center field.
The question most concerning scouts is whether he can stick in center. Many question his range there, despite his speed. What isn’t in question about Naquin defensively is his arm, which grades out as a true 70.
If Naquin can stick in center, he could be an above-average option there with his contact ability and speed. If he can’t, he looks more like a tweener—sort of a Michael Brantley with less speed but better on-base skills and a much better arm.
Don’t diss Naquin for not being a top-15 prospect in the draft, but love him for what he is.
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