Is Tyler Naquin Destined To Be A Bust Or Could There Be Appeal?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It would be easy to get excited about the Indians’ Tyler Naquin.  After all he burst onto the scene last season, helping to fill the gaping hole left by the loss of Michael Brantley as he contributed across the board:

321 At Bats
.296 Batting Average (95 Hits)
14 Home Runs
43 RBI
52 Runs
6 Stolen Bases
.372 On Base Percentage
.514 Slugging Percentage
.411 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Now the question is going to be whether he can maintain those numbers…  OK, that’s not really the question at all.  Just looking at the BABIP should tell us the numbers are likely going to fall off a cliff.  The real question is going to be how far he falls and if he can maintain any type of fantasy appeal.

Sure he hit the ball hard (23.4% line drive rate, 38.5% Hard%), but remember he was just a .287 hitter in the minors (.270 at Triple-A).  Even with hitting the ball hard, there’s little chance he maintains a reasonably close BABIP.  Of those who qualified for the batting title in ’16 the best mark belonged to D.J. LeMahieu, with a .388, and only eight hitters posted a mark above .360.

Then you have the strikeout rate, which sat at 30.7%.  That may be a bit extreme, having posted a 22.5% mark at Triple-A in ’15, but he needs to make a significant improvement at the plate to get there.  Just look at his Whiff% by pitch type:

  • Hard – 16.79%
  • Breaking – 14.05%
  • Offspeed – 16.22%

That doesn’t offer much hope, and while there should be a step forward expecting a great improvement is a stretch.  The chances of him hitting .250 is much more realistic to him closing in on .300.

Then we get the power, something that seems intriguing until we realize that it came courtesy of a 22.2% HR/FB.  There also was a strong stretch in June and July, ultimately “slugging” 2 HR over 124 AB in the final two months of the season.  He had never hit more than 10 HR in a season prior to ’16, and while it’s possible that he’s added some strength expecting him to maintain this jump is a long shot.

Even with a full slate of AB, expecting him in the same range (14-17) is more reasonable than expecting a jump into 20+.

Throw in just a little bit of speed (8-12 SB) and what are we buying?  Is there value in a 10/10 outfielder?  Absolutely, but he also isn’t going to be a stud as some may think after his impressive debut.  At the right price he’s worth the investment, but don’t make the mistake of reaching for him.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catcher03/20/1702/28/17
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Shortstop02/13/1703/15/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
03/19/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
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Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

3 comments

  1. Mike says:

    Prof, I know it’s unrelated to this article but would love to see an analysis on Gary Sanchez and your projection… I think he’s the most intriguing hitter out there in terms of what the fantasy world thinks about him and his ranks for the upcoming season… thx in advance

    • bbboston says:

      Mike,

      After seeing your comment, I was prompted to look at Sanchez’s stats on fangraphs. Not sure what happened in 2016, but it is an odd year or “growth”. He clearly had a meaningful improvement in AAA, improving across the board which suggests an approach change….. THEN, he goes up to MLB and has spike in K% (25%) and BB% and BABIP. I’m not qualified to really interpret this, but I’d guess:
      1) AAA- Refined pitch selection?
      2) MLB – Began to sell out for the HR on Fastballs?

      Did he just begin to see the ball better, and then began to refine things from there?

      Seriously, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear he got contacts for the first time…or something like that.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      We will definitely get into Sanchez (and there’s actually an article going up today in regards to his ADP). To an extent I believe, as I do have him ranked #3 among catchers, but at the same time I don’t. He can’t possibly maintain last season’s marks and a regression across the board is likely.

      Is he worth owning? Absolutely, but he’s not worth overpaying to acquire

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