Cleveland Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin finished third in the voting for the American League Rookie of the Year Award after contributing to his team’s run to the seventh game of the 2016 World Series, where they lost by one run in extra innings to the Chicago Cubs.
However, following back-to-back summer months where Naquin won AL Rookie of the Month honors, he struggled to catch up to fastballs from opposing pitchers and managed to hit just .233 over the final two months of the regular season and .174 in the playoffs.
“I think that’s what happened with Naq in the second half of the year,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Guys started beating him up a little bit with fastballs. I think he started to press on it, and probably got himself in positions where he couldn’t get to them.”
Although Naquin struggled at the plate in the latter stages of the 2016 season, he has found something in the batter’s box in spring training. Naquin has registered 11 hits in 24 at-bats (.458 batting average) with one home run, five RBI, four runs scored, one stolen base and a .480 on-base percentage.
“It’s not that he can’t because we’ve seen him do it,” Francona said. “You see him right now. He’s hitting righties. He’s hitting lefties. I think at one point, he was eight for nine. I just think all of the things we talk about, his survival skills, he’s got talent.
“He loves to play. He’s not afraid to work. He came out here, and it’s nothing against Goodyear; I love it, but for a 25-year old kid to come out here in January and go to that boot camp thing, that says a lot. I’m sure it’s easy to be wanting to do something else.”
Over 321 at-bats in 116 games last season, Naquin smacked 95 hits, including 18 doubles, five triples and 14 home runs, one of which was a walk-off inside-the-park shot against Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna on August 19th.
As a rookie, Naquin scored 52 runs, drove in 43 and posted a .296 batting average with a .372 on-base percentage and .514 slugging percentage.
In 20 July games, Naquin collected 24 hits in 69 at-bats (.348 batting average) with a .416 on-base, .681 slugging and 1.097 on-base-plus slugging percentages. Of Naquin’s 24 hits, 11 went for extra bases, including five doubles and six home runs.
Naquin drove in 15 runs, scored another 14 and drew eight walks against only 20 strikeouts in July.
When Naquin won AL Rookie of the Month honors in June, he smacked 22 hits, including five doubles, three triples and six home runs with 15 RBI and 12 runs scored over 23 games. He had a .338 batting average with a .434 on-base, .785 slugging and 1.219 on-base-plus-slugging percentages.
In his first 73 games with the Indians in 2016, Naquin registered 68 hits in 206 at-bats (.330 average) with 12 doubles, five triples and 13 home runs to go along with 34 runs batted in and 37 scored. Naquin had a .397 on-base and .626 slugging percentages heading into August.
“I think the way he plays will dictate that,” Francona said of Naquin evolving into an everyday player. “I think some day, I could see that happen where you kind of turn the keys of the car over to him and say, ‘Hey, man, go do it.’”