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Over/Under 2021 Preview: Josh Naylor

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Will Josh Naylor be worth more or less than 0.7 fWAR in 2021?

American League Wild Card Game 2: New York Yankees v. Cleveland Indians Photo by Joe Sargent/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Based on ZiPS projections, Josh Naylor is expected to finish 2021 with the following stats:

520 PA, 15 HR, 4 SB, 8.1 BB%, 15.4 K%, .275/.337/.436, 99 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR

Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Let’s Go Tribe Discord.

Matt Schlichting’s Prediction: OVER

As I’ve written these pieces throughout the end of winter I have realized that I am almost universally taking the under on guys. The exception, to date, is Phil Maton; this is related to my conviction that the Indians are quietly assembling one of the greatest bullpens of all-time.

This is not about bullpens, but rather, about a man who is going to obliterate them.

I love ZiPS, and I love projection systems, but they rarely predict “The Leap” that young players make from promising to delivering. I honestly think it’s impossible for them to do so this year — our numerical sample size from the last year is just too small.

When we do this we have to lean a little bit heavier on the eye test, don’t we? I understand the danger in doing that, but there is still obvious value in doing so.

When I look at his minor league stats, and I combine that information with what I’ve seen from him in Cleveland, here is where I land: Naylor is poised to make The Leap. He declared it for anybody listening during the ALDS against the Yankees.

So what’s wrong with this projection? My first issue is with Naylor’s projected slash.

Naylor was 20 years old when he was promoted to Double-A in the middle of the season. This is typically the most difficult leap for a player to make in a system, and he responded by hitting .250/.320/.346. Not great, right? He returned to the level at age 21 and slashed .297/.383/.447. Adjustments! Progress! These continued at age 22 in 2019 when he casually added .100 points of slugging percentage to that line at Triple-A and earned a promotion to The Show.

That’s the most difficult leap of all. And in his first 134 MLB games — not even a full season — he’s slashing .249/.309/.383.

Are you there yet? I’ll break it down one more way. Here are Josh Naylor’s wRC+’s at every new level and the next calendar year the same level:

Full-Season A/A+ (2016): wRC+ 62, 144 PAs
Following year: wRC+ 119, 313 PAs

Double-A (2017): wRC+ 88, 175 PAs
Following year: wRC+ 128 PAs

MLB (2019-2020): wRC+ 84, 383 PAs
Following year: ???????????

No, patterns don’t always repeat, but this one is irresistible to me. I’m going to go all the way out on a limb and tell you what Josh Naylor is going to hit this season:

2021, Josh Naylor: .272/.360/.472, 20 HR, 20% K rate, 12% BB rate, 500 PAs or so, 2.9 fWAR

“But Matt,” you say, “Isn’t this just Los Angeles/Boston Mike Napoli, but with a little bit less power and fewer strikeouts?

And I say, “Hell yeah. Isn’t that great?”

Conclusion: Josh Naylor is 3.0 fWAR player right now, +/- 0.5 fWAR depending on his defense at first base and during random outfield assignments

Poll

Will Josh Naylor finish 2021 with an fWAR over or under 0.7?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Over
    (153 votes)
  • 10%
    Under
    (18 votes)
171 votes total Vote Now