Notes on Indians First Pick Noah Naylor

Photo courtesy of Baseball Canada

The Indians sat back and watched 28 ball clubs pick their prospect of choice prior to making their first selection in last night’s MLB draft. Unlike the NFL, the MLB does not care what happened in the postseason when determining draft order, meaning the Indians were left with the 29th pick out of 30 by virtue of having the second best record in all of baseball in 2017. The clear-cut top prospect in this year’s draft went to the division rival Detroit Tigers and the Indians missed out on having the ability to draft a guy named Beer by one pick. 

Tribe brass did, however, settle on a Canadian high school prospect by the name of Noah Naylor. His older brother, Josh Naylor, is a fringe-type prospect within the San Diego Padres organization with some big-time power upside. All accounts bill Noah Naylor as a catcher but some quick YouTube scanning reveals that may be a pipe dream, barring some extraordinary development.

His catching mechanics seem to be a little behind what you might expect from a top draft pick for that position, though. The pop time seems slow, especially considering the drill is completely framed around being quick to second base. The mechanics are raw, which is to be expected, but to what degree? Lastly, in relation to the mechanics aspect, the fluidity from glove to ear seems lacking, with an infielder-esque release and follow through, with very little accuracy to show. 

Moving on to the later parts of that prospect clip, it’s readily apparent that he’s far more comfortable with an infielder’s glove instead of a catcher’s mitt. There’s a more noticeable fluidity to his movement when taking ground balls. His throwing motion seems more at home coming off a backhand pick. Not billed as a high ceiling middle infielder, Naylor probably projects best in the hot corner at the moment. As a hit-first prospect, that’s all window dressing, though. If he finds a way to produce with the bat and progress through the ranks at a young for level rate, we know the major league club will find a place to put him on the diamond. 

One look at his swing and you understand the first round tag on Noah Naylor. Smooth as could be imagined for a seventeen-year-old (at the time) prep player. Disconcerting catching footage aside, one can easily conceive how the Indians settled on his name at the bottom of the first round. 

Most respectable MLB draft pundits seem to agree that Naylor is a bat-first prospect with a lot of contact in his future. High averages and line drives seem to be his calling cards, with the framework to carve out some power potential down the line. 

The Major League Baseball draft could be best described as the proverbial crapshoot. After you get past the relative “can’t miss” types in the first few picks, you’re simply buying upside. When Lonnie Chisenhall’s name surfaces as one of the Indians most successful first round gambles this century, it speaks to two things: some poor drafting and the variance that accompanies picking 18 and 21 year old prospects. Simply, you are buying nothing but upside and prospect floors are virtually non-existent.

Naylor has a legitimate ceiling as a hitter. In the prospect world, it’s hard to argue against that value towards the end of the first round of the crapshoot draft.