Before the season started the name Tyler Naquin probably wouldn’t have rung any bells with the casual fan across baseball, nor even the ordinary Indians fan. Naquin was drafted by the Indians in 2012 out of Texas A&M and was considered by many draft pundits to be a safe college bat after many successful years playing for the Aggies.
Naquin got his first taste of the big leagues this season after making the major league club out of spring training and has quickly, yet quietly, put up excellent numbers this season. Naquin has had his share of traveling this season bouncing back and forth between Triple-A Columbus and Cleveland, but has stuck around recently.
Over his last 30 games Tyler Naquin is slashing .351/.432/.753 in 97 at bats. Naquin has played in 69 games thus far, but his numbers can be put up with nearly any other rookie position player in the American League. As it currently stands the rookies with the best case to take home some hardware this offseason are Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara, Mariners first baseman Dae-Ho Lee and Royals third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert. All three candidates have put up respectable numbers for just breaking into the big leagues this year, but Naquin can contest with all three.
Mazara, Cuthbert and Lee all combine for a 2.5 WAR while Naquin has a 2.6 WAR according to Fangraphs. Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer is likely the favorite to take home the award if the season ended today thanks to a 9-2 record and a 2.50 ERA but his 1.8 WAR still doesn’t compare to Naquin’s.
Of course those who vote for the Rookie of the Year won’t strictly rely on one number, but the wins above replacement stat does represent the types of seasons players have.
Diving deeper into his splits perhaps the numbers that one can fault Naquin on are his batting average with runners in scoring position and his batting average against left handed pitchers sitting at .256 and .273 respectively, but other than that all the numbers are there.
The Indians at times this season have been the best team in the American League, and although it can’t be directly correlated to Naquin’s performances, there is no doubting his play has had an impact on the Tribe and their success this season.
With an outfield full of mostly role players with Michael Brantley playing in just 11 games, the rookie from Texas A&M has been a refreshing addition to many Tribe fans searching for a steady outfielder.
In an organization littered with young outfield prospects like Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier and an established former All Star in Michael Brantley, it would be easy to overlook Tyler Naquin, but he has certainly held his own being a force in the Tribe lineup.
Indians fans have already caught on to the talents that Naquin brings but soon enough so will the rest of baseball if the Indians, and Naquin, continue to make noise in the American League.