If you’re into keeping an eye on future stars, you’re likely aware of Baseball America and what they do over there. If you’re not, you should become more familiar with their work, and, in particular, the Weekly Hot Sheet. Each week, the site ranks the top 13 players based on staff selections and player performances, while having a “Team Photo” section for honorable mention players, a “Not-So Hot” list of under-performing prospects, and a single player listed in a “Helium Watch” section where a player in the lower minors is performing well to inflate his prospect status.
This week, Baseball America ranked 23-year-old Double-A outfielder Tyler Naquin, the No.15 overall selection in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians out of Texas A&M, as the No.3 performing prospect. This is what Baseball America had to say:
Team: Double-A Akron (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .485/.486/.758 (16-for-33), 8 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: The 15th overall pick in 2012, Naquin was solid but not great in his pro debut last year at high Class A Carolina, where he paired a high strikeout rate with below-average power output. His bat has taken a step forward this year, and he’s hitting .327/.379/.451 in 64 games and has been an effective thief on the bases with 14 steals in 17 attempts. With just four home runs, power remains a question mark, as is his range in center field—though not a double-plus arm—but this is the version of Naquin the Indians were counting on when they signed him two years ago.
With the incredible display of errors and fantastic throws that Yoenis Cespedes has put on display this week for Oakland, the powerful arm can play as a dynamic tool at the Major League level, especially if Naquin is league average defensively. Naquin isn’t far off from Cleveland as an advanced college product, but, as Baseball America says, his power could be questionable at best, so his base running, defense, ability to get on base, and utilize his gap power and contact skills will have to continue playing up to be more than a fourth outfielder in Cleveland.
Regardless of long-term outcomes, Naquin’s week was very impressive, even at the national scouting level of analysis. With Trevor Bauer pitching well, Francisco Lindor on the way up, and Jason Kipnis locked up, the Indians future and farm system could have another useful piece to attach to the puzzle in Tyler Naquin.