Making Adjustments has Provided Success for Naquin
Danny Madden | On 27, May 2014
Staying focused and maintaining a consistent routine has been key to the recent success of center fielder Tyler Naquin
The 23-year old, Texas native has been one of the hottest hitters for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks. In the month of April, Naquin hit a modest .262/.344/.727. Since the beginning of May though, he’s really turned it on and has hit an outstanding .302/.346/.752. Near the beginning of April, Naquin had struggled with getting on base as he rested around the Mendoza line for the first couple of weeks. Later that month though was when he started to get more comfortable at the plate.
“I tried a few different things in spring training and see what happened. I tried to carry it over to the beginning of the season. It didn’t work out for me,” says Naquin. “I kind of went back and tweaked some things. I went back to what I was doing. That’s my real foundation.”
When the Indians drafted Naquin in the first round of the 2012 First Year Draft, they were hoping for a speedy outfielder that covered a lot of ground in center field, be a solid leadoff man, and hit the ball with consistency. This type of gameplay is what Naquin is trying to focus on in his development in Akron this season.
In 2013, Naquin spent some time in both High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron. Between the two teams he batted .269/.334/.739 with 10 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 48 RBI’s, along with six triples. Most of his offense came while he was in Carolina, as he only had 80 at-bats while in Akron last year. After the minor league season ended last year, Naquin spent some time in the Arizona Fall League where he was scorching hot all season long. He batted a solid .339/.400/.817 in 27 games. Naquin benefitted from spending some time in the fall league after having his second full season in pro-ball.
One reason why Naquin was able to benefit from spending time in the fall league was due to the change in his batting stance.
“I had started out real high with my stance when I first came to pro ball,” Naquin said. “They spread me out quite a bit when I got back to the fall league and decided to make a happy medium about it. I started off pretty hot there in 120 at-bats and was able to put up some good numbers there.”
The change in his stance has obviously worked out for him as he is putting up much better numbers in his second trip to Double-A Akron.
“That’s something that I’ve focused a lot on, and trying to stay consistent with my approach,” explains Naquin about his focus towards being consistent at the plate and his stance.
Not only has Naquin been better at the plate this season, but he has also been a big threat on the base paths. In 126 games in 2013, Naquin had a total of 15 stolen bases. So far in 2014, he already has 10.
“That’s something I’ve focused on more,” Naquin said. “[Manager Dave Wallace] asked me, ‘Why don’t you run?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know, I just don’t think about it.’ ‘You’ve got all that speed, why don’t you steal some bases?’… When I get up there, and I get in the right situation then I’ll steal some bases.”
It’s common to see most baseball teams make their leadoff hitter be one of the fastest guys on the team. The leadoff man setups the game in the first at bat, and when you can get your man on in the first inning, and then have him steal a base right after, it can cause the pitcher to be uncomfortable from the start of the game. The Indians drafted Naquin knowing he had speed, but stealing bases hasn’t been an attribute that he has focused on until this season. In college, Naquin wasn’t much of a base stealer. This is an adjustment that Naquin has made since he reached pro-ball.
Naquin attended college at Texas A&M where he played baseball between 2009-2012, before being drafted by the Indians. In 2009 though, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the thirty-third round of the First Year Player draft. Naquin decided to not sign with the O’s so he could attend college and refine his skills before entering the draft in 2012.
“I’ll stand behind my decision of that, day in and day out, as the best decision I’ve ever made in baseball,” Naquin said about attending college. “I think a lot of it has to do a lot with the program as well. I think anybody that had a good time at A&M, the guys that played and the guys that didn’t play, and didn’t complain about how they don’t like the staff, took away a good experience from that.”
He gives a lot of credit for his development as a player to the coaches that he had while at Texas A&M. Some players decide to not go into college right out of high school, and decide to jump right into the draft, but Naquin thinks that college has benefitted his career as a player thus far in the minor leagues.
The area that Naquin has struggled the most thus far in the season is batting against left-handed pitching. As a left-handed batter, it’s common for lefty batters to struggle against lefty pitching. On the season, Naquin is batting only .180/.242/.439 against lefty pitching. Although, against right-handed pitching he is mashing them with an incredible .339/.394/.890.
“I’ve never been sat against a lefty,” Naquin said. “I can name numerous times where I’ve been hitting the ball well against lefties, but it’s not going well in my favor. Maybe it just so happens to be on lefties, but it’s not something I’ve ever been worried about or something that I am worried about.”
This could just be a stroke of bad luck for Naquin right now, but it’s something to improve on going forward. He’s a very strong hitter when he playing right-handed pitching, but if he wants to be a solid leadoff hitter, he’ll need to develop a better eye against lefties.
As a member of the RubberDucks, who are currently leading the Eastern League Western Division with a record of 30-19, Naquin is just living in the moment and cherishing the opportunity that he has been given.
“I’m just going to stay in the moment and do what I can to help this team win or whatever team I’m playing for to win.”
When you’re part of a team that consists of Francisco Lindor, Tony Wolters, Bryson Myles, and Joe Wendle, it’s easy to enjoy the experience set in front of you. Having a manager like Wallace also makes going through development that much better not just because of his personality, but because of how he respects each of his players, like Naquin.
“I think he’s based on respect,” Naquin explains. “You give him your respect and he’ll give you your space and also your respect. If you don’t play hard, he’ll light a fire under you… He’ll trust that you’re a professional and he’ll let you weed yourself out. If you’re not working hard, and you’re not doing your thing. He doesn’t have to say anything to you to get you going. He’s relies on you to be ready every day. He’s a good guy, and everybody loves to play with him. Like I said, he’s laid back, and he makes great decisions in a lot of situations, and it shows. We’re playing really good baseball right now, and that’s not all on the players. Coaching staff has a lot to do with that.”
It seems that Naquin has begun to develop into the player that the Indians were expecting when they took him with their first round pick in 2012. He can hit for consistency, a little bit of pop, and be a big threat on the base paths. It won’t be too long before he finds his way up to Cleveland. He brings a focused attitude every day to the park and understand what he has to do to be successful.
“I believe whole heartedly if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll get an opportunity to play at the highest level I can play at,” Naquin said. “I just can’t wait for that.”
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer