Let's Go Tribe is putting together its own ranking of the top Indians prospects. Here are the previous entries in the series:
#4: Giovanny Urshela
For the first time in this process we had what I would consider a close vote, with three different candidates receiving solid support. Tyler Naquin came out on top:
- OF Tyler Naquin: 35%
- LHP Justus Sheffield: 8%
- OF James Ramsey: 20%
- 1B Bobby Bradley: 29%
- SS Erik Gonzalez: 8%
Naquin was the Indians' 1st round pick in 2012 (#15 overall), but there's always been a sense that he was a reach at that point, drafted because he was more affordable than potentially better players left on the table. I think that put a stigma of sorts on Naquin, and he doesn't always get the credit he's due. Of the 10 outfielders drafted after Naquin during the first three rounds of that year's draft, only one of them is a better prospect than him at this point (Rangers prospect and #29 pick that year).
Naquin had a brief stint with Double-A Akron at the end of 2013, and that's where he was sent to begin 2014. He struggled at the plate for the first three weeks of April, batting just .200/.273/.250, with 22 strikeouts in 67 plate appearances. A pair of doubles were his only extra-base hits during that time.
On April 22 though Naquin hit a pair of triples, and for the next 60 games he posted a line of .340/.394/.467, with a respectable 17.9% strikeout rate and 8.8% walk rate. His 18 extra-base hits in those 60 games were a solid total for a player whose profile isn't really built on power. His .403 BABIP from that stretch isn't sustainable, but even at something like .350 (a figure he does seem capable of maintaining, given his speed and batted-ball profile), he'd have posted a .300 batting average.
Naquin had totaled 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts at that point, and he was playing plus defense in center field, with solid range and a great arm for the position. And even with his sluggish start to the season with the bat, his wRC+ for the Eastern League was 122.
Unfortunately, Naquin suffered a broken bone in his right hand when he was hit by a pitch in late June, and he wasn't able to return to the field before the end of the season. There's a fair chance he was on the verge of being promoted to Triple-A, which is where I'd like to see him begin 2015.
Naquin will turn 24 in April, so he's not young as prospects go, but he looks pretty close to MLB ready, and a player who arrives in time for his age-25 season could very well be under team control for what will be the best six seasons of his career. I don't think Naquin will be a star, but I think in another year he could be ready to take over as the starting center fielder, and be a little better than average in each major facet of the game. That'd be a much better return than is provided by most 1st round picks.
Who do you think is the #7 prospect in the Indians system?
Remember to also let us know in the comments which player you think should join the voting next.