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Thoughts on Cleveland Indians prospect Tyler Naquin

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Tyler Naquin
Tyler Naquin
Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Cleveland Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin is having an excellent spring: through 38 at-bats he's hitting .447/.500/.842 with three doubles, three triples, two homers, and a 4/9 BB/K ratio. With Mickey Brantley injured, Naquin is expected to be the Indians center fielder on Opening Day.

Here's my current take. First, the comment from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 175 DOB: April 24, 1991

Recovering from a broken hand that cut short his 2014 season, Tyler Naquin adapted well to advanced minor league pitching last year, posting a 158 wRC+ in Double-A and a 127 mark in Triple-A. He should be ready for a trial sometime in 2016. He doesn’t have the power upside of Clint Frazier and his overall tools are a notch weaker than Bradley Zimmer’s, but Naquin can run, field, draw walks, and show occasional pop. His platoon splits are pronounced and it is very possible he will slot best as a fourth outfielder and platoon bat, but he could have a very long and successful run in that role. Grade B-.

As noted, Brantley's injury and Naquin's hot spring mean that the trial will start in April rather than later in the summer.

What accounts for Naquin's spring performance surge? Paul Hoynes at wrote yesterday that Naquin spent most of the winter in Cleveland's strength camp and, well, got stronger. Given that he's always had a nice swing and a good feel for hitting, increased strength has resulted increased production without any drastic changes in his overall approach.

The big caveat of course: it's spring training. We need to see how this holds up against regular season pitching, and if the platoon issues that were apparent in Triple-A are solved. I still think Naquin would be an excellent fourth outfielder, but if he can maintain greater power production and handle lefties, he could keep a regular job.