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Bo Naylor’s weird, promising 2019

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The Tribe’s top catching prospect hit an unusual milestone this season

Noah Naylor Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Given the recent doldrums of the offseason in which nothing of consequence occurred I felt that now would be a good time to review an intriguing player in the Indians’ system.

While Bo Naylor may not be a complete unknown to most of you, he had an unusual year in 2019. Good unusual. Interesting unusual. A little bit of “wait, what?” unusual. It’s time for another edition of our incredibly sporadic feature:

Better Know an Indians Prospect!

Let’s Go Tribe readers voted Bo Naylor as the ninth-best prospect in the Indians system back in January. This hype came as a result of his .274/.381/.402 slash line in Rookie ball after the Indians drafted him with the 29th overall pick in 2018. Those numbers represent a spectacular performance for a catching prospect; the Indians rewarded it by promoting Naylor past Low-A ball entirely.

He started the season with the Lake County Captains as one of the youngest players in the entire league. As might be expected due to such an aggressive placement, Naylor’s numbers dipped at the plate this season. By focusing a little more closely on the specifics, however, a weird but promising picture begins to emerge.

Naylor led the Midwet League in triples. Again — Naylor is a catcher. It goes without saying that a backstop leading any league in super-doubles is a bit odd. Naylor possess above-average athleticism at catcher and used his wheels to showcase that in his first year of full-season ball.

He managed to add eleven home runs and eighteen doubles to his extra base hit total, as well. This gives him a remarkable distinction as one of three Indians minor leaguers to ever notch double-digit totals in each category. The first to do so was Grady Sizemore. The other also accomplished the feat this season: Ka’ai Tom. Again, this underlines the blend of athleticism Naylor brings to a position with which we normally wouldn’t associate it.

It’s a family thing

Bo is the middle child in a trio of baseball brothers. The eldest, Josh, made his Major League debut with the San Diego Padres this season. He mashed eight dingers and projects to be an above-average power hitter. Some feel he may grow into the nickname “Mississauga Masher”.

The youngest, Myles, plays travel baseball on a team coached by his father as of two years ago. Speaking of the parents: their dad played basketball, baseball, and soccer growing up, while their mother participated in volleyball and track.

That multi-sport talent extends to the children, too. Bo played both baseball and hockey up to the age of 14, while Myles is also an intriguing basketball prospect.

What does the future hold?

As his promotion schedule to date and his performance despite those demands suggests, Naylor is an advanced bat for his age, and especially for his position. This puts the Indians in a similar spot to the one they arguable bungled with Francisco Mejia. Do they want to keep him at his premium defensive position, or test him at other positions in order to protect his health and longevity? This also would allow them to reap the rewards of his hitting talents sooner. He’s played third base for team Canada in the past. MLB Pipeline also suggests that he might be worth a shot at second base given his athleticism.

If I had definitive answers to this you wouldn’t be reading any of my analysis and I’d be making a whole lot more money than I do now. What I can say is that Naylor caught 47 out of 128 base stealers in 2019 for a caught-stealing rate of 36.7%. It will be interesting to keep an eye on Naylor’s arm as its accuracy continues to develop. He also has a little bit of work to do as a receiver behind the plate, but that’s true of virtually any catching prospect. To me, it would be a waste of a potential star at catcher to begin plans to move him out into the field so soon.

For now, I leave you with this clip of Naylor hitting one of his ten triples from the excellent Emily Waldon.