The Cleveland Indians will start their 2016 campaign with rookie outfielder Tyler Naquin starting in center field. Naquin has been the biggest surprise in the Indians camp this spring, and he put it all together at the perfect time. He will get plenty of chances to prove he belongs in the big leagues, as he is the Indians only true center fielder on the roster as of Opening Day. His rise makes for a great story, so here is a little more about Naquin and a breakdown of the scouting report on him.
- NAME: Tyler Naquin
- AGE: 24 (will turn 25 in April)
- POSITION: CF
- BATS: Left
- THROWS: Right
- HEIGHT: 6-foot-2
- WEIGHT: 190 pounds
- ACQUIRED: 1st-round selection in 2012 First Year Player Draft
Naquin was All-State at Klein High School in Spring, Texas and was drafted directly out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles. However, Naquin decided to attend Texas A&M in College Station, Texas instead of making the early jump to professional baseball. His decision to play college ball paid dividends, as he became an All-American and won Big 12 Player of The Year in 2011. The Indians drafted Naquin 15th overall in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft.
Since joining the Indians organization, Naquin has had his share of injury issues over the last few seasons. In 2014, he was hit by a pitch in his hand and missed valuable time in his development. The injury to his hand later required surgery. Last season, he missed time after running into the outfield wall, and then had his 2015 season ended with a hip injury. Naquin also suffered a concussion during his time in the minor leagues.
With Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley both starting the season on the D.L., Naquin took advantage of his opportunities this spring, playing his way onto the 25-man roster and likely winning the starting center fielder’s job for the time being.
Naquin came to camp in superb physical condition and immediately turned heads. He has improved his approach at the plate, letting the ball travel further into the zone, which allowed him to avoid lunging at pitches. His physical maturation highlighted his consistently sound hitting mechanics, which has led to a surge in his power this spring. His overall play at the plate has been incredible.
Along with his sound mechanics at the dish, he has been appropriately aggressive. He has a good eye but doesn’t walk very much. He is a very good athlete with strong hand-eye coordination and a keen awareness of the strike zone. He has shown the ability to see pitches well out of the pitcher’s hand and judiciously offer at pitches he can drive.
Scouting reports state that defensively he is “a smooth, fluid outfielder with sound outfield mechanics.” He has a good arm and makes accurate throws to the proper places on the field. He reads the ball well off of the bat and takes the correct routes to the ball. His athleticism allows him to put himself in position to make quality throws.
The center fielder owns a .447 average and 1.342 OPS this spring, with eight extra base hits in 38 at-bats. The Indians are hoping his power surge is sustainable and that with the teams backing he can become a fixture in the Indians outfield now and in the future.
Manager Terry Francona broke the news to Naquin that he had earned a spot on the roster. “That was one of the more touching ones for us,” Francona told reporters. “We’ve seen this kid come from, two years ago in our one-on-one meetings, he wouldn’t even look at us, to growing into a man and accepting the challenge this spring. We’ve all seen what he’s done with it. To be able to tell him and to see his reaction, it was hard not to be emotional. The last thing I want to do is start crying at 9:30 a.m. It was hard not to. It was a really good feeling.”
Now that we know a little more about Naquin’s game, we are ready for Opening Day. The Indians will need Naquin to contribute right from the start in order to get out of the gate better than they have the last couple years. It appears that Chisenhall and Brantley’s timetable for return is somewhat fluid, so it will be on the kid in the early going. Roll Tribe.