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Indians prospect Naquin has top-of-order ability

Future looks bright for outfielder with compact swing, strong arm

Tyler Naquin loves the fresh air of rural life away from buildings and crowds. I'm confident, however, that the Cleveland Indians outfield prospect will likely be happy to be spending some time surrounded by skyscrapers and cement as his career progresses.

Naquin -- from Spring, Texas -- was an All-Texas player for Klein Collins High School. While tempted to sign with the Baltimore Orioles after they selected him in the 33rd round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, he chose to enroll at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

Naquin really took off as a hitter in his sophomore season when he hit .381 as an Aggies outfielder. His play earned All American and Big 12 Player Of The Year honors in 2011.

The Indians chose Naquin with their first round selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He has now completed parts of two seasons in the Tribe's farm system. Naquin is No. 5 on the Indians' Top 20 Prospects list.

This past season, Naquin played for Class A Advanced Carolina, where he hit .277 in 498 plate appearances. He scored 69 runs. Naquin finished the season playing for Double-A Akron in the Eastern League. In his 18 games, Naquin hit .225 in 85 trips to the plate.

The left-handed-hitting and right-handed-throwing Naquin, 22, has a number of above-average tools that serve as the framework for his future. His short, compact swing lends itself very well to him becoming a top-of-the-order table setter and rally starter. Naquin's line-drive stroke has just a slight uppercut. His hitting mechanics are very quiet and uncomplicated.

Naquin has very good eye-hand coordination, allowing him to hit breaking balls well by letting the pitch travel to him a bit. He isn't fooled at the plate by fastballs or offspeed pitches.

Naquin seems very content to get on base with a single or a walk. He uses the entire field in his consistent approach.

Perhaps power will generate, but at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, Naquin's frame and mechanics lend themselves more to being a high average run scorer rather than a power hitter. I do project him hitting the gaps and legging out doubles.

Naquin has slightly above-average basestealing type speed. He isn't a burner, but he can get his motor going well enough to take an extra base when needed.

Perhaps Naquin's best tool is a strong and accurate arm. He has the type of arm strength and carry that is generally used in right field. That would be a familiar position for Naquin, but his limited power projects a role as a good hitting, average fielding center fielder.

Naquin is still learning and refining his technique to taking sound routes in the outfield. He has the speed and first-step quickness needed to close on balls as well as throw out baserunners looking to take liberties. I do not foresee problems with Naquin playing Major League quality defense.

I have been scouting Naquin in the Arizona Fall League, where he is playing with energy and enthusiasm for the Surprise Saguaros. He is having a fine fall, and in October was named an AFL Player Of The Week. Naquin has consistently been among the league leaders in hitting. He is making contact while being selective and patient at the plate.

Naquin was named to the AFL Fall Stars team. He batted second as the designated hitter and tripled in the early November game. Not only is he a Fall League leader in scoring runs, Naquin has driven in runs with timely hitting, a bonus for a top-of-the-order hitter.

Eventually, the Indians may have a combination of recent first-round selection and No. 3 Indians prospect Clint Frazier and Naquin in the same outfield. Their skills complement one another very well.

Naquin will have to find time to return to the open spaces and beauty of nature in the offseasons. For now, he is otherwise engaged developing his skills as a solid hitter and good defensive outfielder.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.
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