by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Just when it looked like the upside of the former first round draft pick had completely disappeared, the Padres’ Josh Naylor has exploded to start 2018. Always known for his power potential, he’s slugged 6 HR over his first 49 PA at Double-A. Obviously he isn’t going to maintain this type of pace, but can be continue to produce or will be regress back into obscurity?
First we should look at a past scouting report, as MLB.com described prior to 2016 by saying:
“Naylor’s bat has the potential to be special. His calling card is his plus-plus raw power from the left side of the plate, but it’s his natural feel for hitting which has allowed him to apply it in games as a teenager. The Ontario native makes hard contact to all fields thanks to his plus bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination, and he also keeps the barrel in the zone longer than most young sluggers. Naylor does not have much swing-and-miss to his game in spite of an aggressive approach, but he’ll need to become more selective as he moves up the ladder and sees better secondary pitches.”
The power has not presented itself quite to this level before and obviously a 33.3% HR/FB is not going to be maintained (though he has the power hitter build, listed at 250 lbs.). Still he’s just 20-years old and is still maturing and developing. The power is there and it’s promising that he’s starting to tap into it.
He also has continued to keep the swing and miss out of his game. Early on this season he owns a 7.7% SwStr%, leading to a 10.2% strikeout rate. He still needs to prove that he can continue to make contact against experienced pitching, and the true test may not come until he reaches Triple-A, but so far he’s showing the type of skills we like to see.
Obviously a 51.4% fly ball rate brings a different risk with it, but with his power that’s something we can accept. No one is about to compare Naylor to Rhys Hoskins, but it’s interesting to compare his current profile to what Hoskins did during his 2016 breakout at Double-A:
Again no one is about to predict that Naylor will follow a similar path to Hoskins, but the comparison is notable. We’ve learned with Hoskins that approach is key, and if you can make consistent contact and grow into your power you can enjoy significant success. Naylor may not reach that level, but the upside is becoming extremely impressive.
sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com
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