Don’t look now, but Bo Naylor is tied for the highest OPS+ on the team at 129. Seriously, please don’t look because he’s actually technically in 3rd. However, given that the two players in front of him, Josh Naylor and Jose Ramirez, are only at 131 and 130 respectively, he’s pretty much tied for first right? He’s currently tied with Josh Bell for 4th on the team in home runs with 11, giving him the most home runs by a Guardians catcher since Roberto Perez came out of nowhere to hit 24 in 2019.
Bo is currently sporting a slash line of .244/.347/.482/.829 with 11 home runs in only 65 games, these numbers look even more impressive when you consider the fact that he got off to an absolutely horrendous start after his initial call up. In 15 games in the first half Bo only hit .196 with a .562 OPS, striking out more than once a game (18) and only drawing 5 walks. He showed signs of improvement in July and August but has come on like crazy in the month of September slashing .333/.478./.667 with an OPS of 1.144,he’s also added 4 steals and 4 homers while drawing 14 walks in 17 games compared to only 8 K’s.
Beyond the actual outputs of the production, the underlying metrics are stellar as well. He’s putting up chase and whiff rates well into the top 3rd among all of major league baseball, and he’s posting a stellar BB% of 13.4%. If he maintained that walk rate over enough PA’s to be “qualified” he’d rank 15th in all of Major League Baseball in the metric, tied with Baltimore Oriole’s phenom Adley Rutschman. Some of his contact quality based metrics are skewed low, but much of that is due to the slow start he got off to, his Sweet Spot percentage and Barrell rates are both solid.
Simply put, Bo Naylor has arrived. Beyond just his offensive production he’s planted himself firmly in the upper third of catchers in both his framing and his pop time while being solidly average at blocking the ball. He’s also well above average in his “baserunning run value” on Baseball Savant, a rarity for a catcher.
At only 23 years old, Bo Naylor is putting himself in the conversation as one of the best young catchers in the game, and certainly is shaping up to be the best catcher we’ve had in a while. While he certainly wouldn’t be the first player to have a stellar rookie campaign only to never recapture the magic again, He possesses the requisite traits that lead me to believe he will be able to sustain this type of production. Most notably, he is a supremely intelligent player and possesses a phenomenal work ethic.
The company line on why Bo wasn’t up with the big club to open the season was a need for him to refine his defensive game, regardless of whether that was true or just a service time suppression tactic, the narrative on Bo was that he wasn’t quite ready to manage the defensive responsibilities of being a big league catcher, particularly as it pertained to managing a big league pitching staff. Since his call up Guardians pitchers and coaches have absolutely raved about the young catchers preparation and game calling. Lucas Giolito even went out of his way to praise Naylor in the post game press conference following his 12 K, 0 ER outing on September 15th. Bo’s ability to take an area of weakness and quickly turn it into a strength demonstrates an insane degree of baseball intelligence and a high work ethic.
He also recently beat Steven Kwan at chess.
It’s hard to watch the type of finish we’ve seen to Bo’s season and not get excited about the future in Cleveland. While nobody would say this season has shaped up how they’d hope, watching one of our top prospects rise far above even the loftiest of expectations is certainly a reason for hope.
Now all we need is for him to actually get a chance to show what he can do against left handed pitching, but if this swing from last night is any indication, he’ll be just fine.