Is it still way too early to think about Rookie of the Year winners? Yep.
Am I going to do it anyway? You betchya.
Looking at the Cleveland Indians, the only real candidate at this point would be Tyler Naquin. The 25-year-old rookie is already following in the footsteps of last year's breakout rookie, Francisco Lindor. Naquin is obviously no Lindor, but both prospects came up through the minors with the idea that they were "defense-first" players. And when both made it to the majors their power suddenly exploded.
Naquin currently leads all American League rookies in wRC+ by a wide margin. His 163 wRC+ is a full 28 points over the next highest rookie, Hyun Soo Kim. Naquin's slugging percentage, .605, is also leagues above everyone else -- the next closest rookie being Dae-Ho Lee of the Seattle Mariners at .507.
Even moving away from rookies, Naquin's offensive output has been incredible. He has not had enough plate appearances to be considered a qualified batter, but among AL outfielders with at least 130 appearances, his 163 wRC+ is second only to Mike Trout's 167. And even with a mere six home runs, he still leads that same group of outfielders with a bonkers .605 slugging percentage.
When Naquin made his first appearance in the majors, there were two major knocks against him -- he was not hitting extra-base hits and he was not drawing walks. During his first "cup of coffee" (65 PA), he was slashing .317/.338/.413, but had just two extra-base hits (one double, one triple) and he drew two walks. It was not a great look.
However, since he spent a month down in the minors and was recalled following Marlon Byrd's suspension for PED use, seemingly all he has done is hit extra-base hits and draw walks. From June 2 to June 27, he has walked up to the plate 66 times, recorded 19 hits (13 of which were for extra bases, including six home runs) and he has drawn eight walks.
Circling back to the Francisco Lindor comparison, the biggest difference between the two is that Lindor maintained his defensive acumen in the majors, while Naquin has struggled in center field. Naquin has been worth -9 defensive runs saved, and he has not made any defensive plays deemed "Even" or more difficult, according to FanGraphs' Inside Edge Fielding.
Naquin also has an astounding .458 batting average on balls in play this season. While Naquin's speed has always made him a pretty high-BABIP player, .458 is no way sustainable -- nor is the rate at which he is hitting extra-base hits. However, we are not looking to project his performance over multiple seasons. All he has to do is keeping playing well above his head for another month or so and it will quite a tumble to knock him out of contention. And while his defense is an obvious issue, if last year's AL ROY vote taught us anything, it's that defense is not that important to voters.
Either way, in this way-too-early-look at the potential Rookie of the Year race, the Indians have one clear horse in the race, and his name is Tyler Raequin.