Indians prospect Tyler Naquin is having a great season with Double-A Akron

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Checking in on Tyler Naquin to see how his performance compares to that of his peers...

Two years ago, the Indians spent their 1st-round pick on a 21-year-old out of Texas A&M, a player with a solid bat, good wheels, and the potential to move quickly through the system to help the team as an outfielder who got on base at a high rate.

In our draft prep, we spent some time talking about Tyler Naquin, including his possible role on the 2017 Indians. He earned that chatter thanks to a solid May, posting a .328/.370/.434 line with 2 HR for Double-A Akron. Since the calendar turned to June, Naquin has turned things up even further, moving from that good line to a great one: He's hitting .404/.435/.579 over the last 2+ weeks, with another couple home runs.

After a mediocre April, Naquin's line for the season is now .325/.375/.449, with 4 HR and 14 SB. At 23 years old, Naquin is threatening to push his way into the lineup at Triple-A Columbus. To better analyze how well Naquin is playing, it helps to have some context, such as the development of the other eight outfielders drafted with him in the first round of the 2012 draft:

Player Org Draft Pick Age Level AVG OBP SLG HR SB
Byron Buxton MIN 2 20 A 0.150 0.150 0.350 1 0
Albert Almora CHN 6 20 A 0.241 0.262 0.320 2 4
David Dahl COL 10 20 A 0.278 0.323 0.496 10 14
Courtney Hawkins CHA 13 20 A 0.252 0.341 0.457 10 6
Tyler Naquin CLE 15 23 AA 0.325 0.375 0.449 4 14
D.J. Davis TOR 17 20 A 0.226 0.284 0.346 5 7
James Ramsey STL 23 24 AA 0.307 0.390 0.563 12 2
Victor Roache MIL 28 22 A 0.194 0.251 0.347 7 5
Lewin Brinson TEX 29 20 A 0.301 0.374 0.439 3

Before we dive into the numbers, it is worth noting that Byron Buxton is dealing with a wrist injury and has not played much, but he was rated as the top prospect in all of baseball by most prominent outlets before the season began. If healthy, he would almost certainly be the class of this class.

If you focus on the stats, and the level each guy is at, a few players stand out:

  • James Ramsey, like Naquin, is dominating AA pitching and is probably in need of a bigger challenge before too long.
  • Lewis Brinson is getting on base with regularity. He had 21 HR and 24 SB a year ago, as well. He may have been taken last, but he looks like great value.
  • Courtney Hawkins and David Dahl are both putting up solid lines; Dahl showing a bit more power (at least in terms of slugging if not HR) and speed.
You ought not only look at those columns though. Ramsey and Naquin may be putting up the best numbers, and at the highest level, but they are also the only players other than Roache who are old for their level. Those three, not surprisingly, are the three college players drafted, which is why they are older than their draftmates.

When a player is old for their level, you expect some level of success. Ramsey is facing a number of guys 2-3 years younger than him - the impressive numbers are not a mirage, but they are not necessarily what they seem to be. In the meantime, Dahl, Hawkins and Brinson are succeeding right where they should be in their development. Even players like Almora and Davis have plenty of time to figure things out before their luster really wears off.

Naquin, like Ramsey, is succeeding against younger players, but that doesn't mean we should write off the success. Naquin is currently 9th among Eastern League outfielders in OPS, but the guys ahead of him are all older than he is.

Looking back at that draft class, if we were to re-draft today, based on what we know now, Naquin would likely still be the fifth or sixth outfielder off the board. The top four, despite Almora's struggles, are still the top four, and you could likely make an argument for Brinson or Ramsey to jump over Naquin.

Keep in mind, this is not a bad thing - we used mid-first round pick on a guy and it looks like we probably got about a mid-first round talent. Plenty of teams use mid-first round picks and get nothing out of it.

Naquin is showing the line-drive stroke, on-base skills, and speed the Indians drafted him for. Over the coming months, we will hopefully get to see what Tyler can do in Triple-A with Columbus, and then we will get a better sense of what we have on our hands.
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