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Naquin nabs AFL Player of the Week honors

Prospect goes 8-for-20 with a league-high seven RBIs amidst 13-game hit streak

Special to

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Fall League Player of the Week Tyler Naquin loves the wide-open Texas life of fishing, hunting and just enjoying the sprawling outdoors.

He and his brother recently purchased some land in the small town of Iola, about a 20-minute drive from College Station, where Naquin went to school at Texas A&M. There aren't many things that would make the young prospect pack his bags and leave for awhile.

One of them is baseball. Naquin plays it with a passion.

"It is the best job in the world," he said.

So here he is in metropolitan Phoenix, where the gas stations and stoplights far outnumber those back home.

Naquin wants his best job to be even better. He is diligently trying to make that happen as an outfield prospect for the Cleveland Indians, playing for the Surprise Saguaros.

He was No. 5 on the Indians' 2013 Top 20 Prospects list, and he was the team's first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

In the third week of the Fall League, Naquin had an output as big as, well, Texas.

In five games, the 22-year-old was 8-for-20 (.400), walked three times, had a league-high seven RBIs and was successful in two of his three stolen-base attempts.

Naquin was rewarded with the Player of the Week nod. Also honored as Pitcher of the Week was Mesa Solar Sox lefty Matt Purke, who like Naquin is a native of Spring, Texas.

"It's an honor to be selected," Naquin said Monday. "I appreciate what the staff here is doing and what the Indians are doing to help me have a good future."

The left-handed-hitting Naquin owned a 13-game hit streak that ended Monday, and he entered play Tuesday with a .351 average, 20 hits, 11 RBIs, one double, six walks, three stolen bases and nine runs scored.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Naquin is not a power hitter, but he can spray the ball. He is capable of hitting leadoff or pretty much anywhere else in the batting order.

"I'm just doing what I've always done, keeping it simple, not trying to do too much, taking it a pitch at a time," Naquin said.

At Texas A&M, Naquin was an offensive star, and Michael Wacha was the star pitcher. Naquin was the 15th overall pick in 2012 and Wacha went four spots later at No. 19. The right-hander made a big splash for the St. Louis Cardinals this year and is pitching for them in the World Series.

Naquin hopes to play in the World Series one day. He figures he will get there by working within the framework of the Indians' organization, but he knows it is flexible at the same time.

"They let you work on things and make suggestions, but if they don't work, they allow you to try other things, make some adjustments. They understand. They let you be you," he said.

He played center field in his youth, then moved to right field in college, but he's returned to center. He can cover a lot of ground and has an above-average arm.

Fellow honoree Purke learned that at an early age back in Texas.

"He is a really good player, and he is a good hitter," Purke said. "On defense, he is tough to run on. If a guy asked me if he should try to score from second on him, I would tell them, 'I probably wouldn't try it, because he will throw you out.'"

Naquin likes it in center.

"You control things in the outfield. You're kind of like the captain," he said. "You can see the ball break. You have to be ready for every pitch."

When the Fall League season is over, Naquin will go back to Texas and get some R&R, then come back next spring ready to go.

After all, he has the best job in the world.

Don Ketchum is a contributor to

Cleveland Indians, Tyler Naquin