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Tyler Naquin not quite ready, but is close to helping Indians

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An injury cut short Tyler Naquin's season, but with what he showed at AA, he could move fast in 2015. Whether he impacts the big club late in 2015 or in 2016 is yet to be determined.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Every weekday for the next few weeks you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or Tribe prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.

Tyler Naquin

  • Position: OF
  • 2014 Player Age: 23
  • Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft

Tyler Naquin came to the Indians with the profile of a high speed, high on-base hitter with solid defense, and he showed that all in 2014.

After working through three levels in 2013, including 85 plate appearances at AA, Naquin started 2014 in Akron and got off to a rough start. Two weeks into the season, he was hitting .220/.264/.280 despite a .333 BABIP. He was striking out more than 31% of the time and walking only 5.6%. Not what we'd come to expect from the 23-year old outfielder.

The next day, however, he was 1-3 with two walks and a strike out, and it started an absolutely stellar stretch of ball. From then until June 27, Naquin posted a .331/.390/.453 line, walking 9.1% of the time and striking out 18.8% of the time. Massive improvements across the board. The BABIP was still high (.398), but Naquin is a line-drive hitter with good speed and so the high BABIP is more likely to be a result of him handling the pitching well than pure luck.

There were other good signs, too. Four home runs is not a ton, but in about half a season, and added to 12 doubles and five triples, you are seeing a guy showing solid extra base hit ability. You don't get a .453 SLG off nothing but singles. He was also on pace to shatter his 2013 stolen base total. In 2013 he successfully nabbed 19 bases in 30 attempts - solid total, weak efficiency. This year he was 14 of 17 in just 76 games. Much, much better. Over 162 games, you are talking about close to 30 stolen bases at a very high success rate.

But sadly, this promising season was cut short. On June 27, Naquin took a pitch to his right hand and came away with a broken bone and date with a surgeon. The surgery was conducted on Thursday, July 3, and Naquin never did make it back on the field this year.

Naquin very well could have been weeks or even days from a shot at AAA when he got hurt. At the very least, a solid second half would have all but guaranteed a trip to Columbus to kick off 2015. Instead, I have to imagine we see him start another season in Akron, with an eye towards a quick promotion if he gets off to a good start.

All in all, the season was a mixed one for Naquin - great production, but injury-shortened. What should we make of the production? Well, it wasn't that long ago that the Tribe traded for a young OF bat known for solid on-base skills and good speed. That player was a bit younger when he reached AA, but he never showed even the limited power we have seen from Naquin. He didn't strike out as much and walked a bit more, but ended up with similar on-base results, and lower slugging. That player was Michael Brantley. The age matters a lot, but Naquin has a similar skill set, if not as good an eye, as Brantley flashed in the minors.

2014 Grades: First Half - A; Second Half - Incomplete

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Outlook for 2015

Naquin should move quickly to AAA, barring any set backs, and there may be an opportunity for him to impact the parent club, as well. There isn't a clear answer in RF and Bourn has shown both production and injury issues in CF. If either of those positions are still unclear in the second half, and if Naquin has put up a solid first half in Columbus, he would make sense as a potential call up. Others will get a shot first, but Naquin can play his way onto the radar. If not for that broken hand, he might be there already.

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Year Age Tm Lev G PA H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 21 Mahoning A- 36 161 37 11 2 0 4 3 17 26 .270 .379 .380 .758
2013 22 2 Teams A+-AA 126 583 142 30 6 10 15 10 46 134 .269 .334 .405 .739
2013 22 Carolina A+ 108 498 124 27 6 9 14 7 41 112 .277 .345 .424 .769
2013 22 Akron AA 18 85 18 3 0 1 1 3 5 22 .225 .271 .300 .571
2014 23 Akron AA 76 341 95 12 5 4 14 3 29 71 .313 .371 .424 .795

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

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