2021 age: 25
Bats: Left; Throws: Right
2020 stats: .247/.291/.330 – 1 HR, 13 RBI – 69 wRC+ – -0.1 fWAR
2020 in review: Once again because of San Diego signing Eric Hosmer, Josh Naylor saw time in the outfield for the Padres for a few months, before joining his younger brother Bo in Cleveland as part of the Mike Clevinger deal. He got to Cleveland and played 22 games, hitting .230/.277/.279 with three doubles and just two RBI playing mostly left field. He famously went 5-7 in the AL Wild Card Series against the Yankees with a homer and three doubles.
Offensive impact: In all his minor league stops, Naylor always hit. In Triple-A at age 21 in 2018, Naylor posted a .297/.383/.447 line. He’s always had low strikeout rates and walked at a good clip. As a former top-100 prospect, most scouts always saw Naylor with plus raw power. He hit 17 homers that year in Double-A. He makes a lot of contact (86.4% last year) and doesn’s strikeout a lot for someone with his raw power (11.5% last year). The power just hasn’t materialized in games yet and part of that is due to hit over 50% ground ball rate. So Naylor has power, makes a lot of contact and doesn’t strike out. He hits the ball hard but can’t quite get to the point where it shows up on his stat line yet. Even without tapping into all that raw power he should be able to hit for a decent batting line in the majors.
Defensive impact: Naylor came up as a natural first basemen but after the Hosmer signing in San Diego he’s been mostly trying to cut it in the majors as an outfielder. At 5’11, 250 (and maybe a bit svelter because he has cut weight the last two years trying to make in the outfield) and learning a new position, the defensive metrics aren’t terrible, but he hasn’t quite gotten to average yet. He was at a -7 in Statcast’s Outs Above Aveage in the outfield in 2019 and an even 0 in 2020, which was a big step up. Fangraphs’ Defensive Runs Saved liked him a bit more, giving him a +1 in left but a -1 in right. No matter where he plays, Naylor’s glove won’t be what makes him a good major leaguer anyway.
Beyond the stats: It was a small sample size in Cleveland anyway, but Naylor looked like he deserved a better batting line in his new home. He hit .233 with Cleveland but Statcast’s xBA thinks he should have hit .291, but only slugged to the tune of a .385 xSLG. So he was hitting the ball hard enough to hit for a good average, but no power. His exit velocities and hard hit rate was always good but he won’t see his power numbers materialze until he gets his launch angle above 7.8. 11.9 is league average. Between 15-20 is ideal for power hitters. That might take a swing change for Naylor, but who knows how that could affect his strikeouts. Cleveland is betting on being able to help him hit a few more fly balls with his contact rate staying mostly intact.
2021 role: Once again, Naylor will be starting a season in the outfield. With Carlos Santana’s second departure from Clevland, it seemed like Naylor would slide over to first base in 20201, but they have opted to test Jake Bauers and/or Bobby Bradley at first base. That puts Naylor as the everyday right fielder opposite a mystery in centerfield and Eddie Rosario in left field. But either way Naylor stands to get a season’s worth of plate appearances mostly coming in right field now.
Fantasy impact: There’s enough outfielder’s and first basemen to pass on Naylor in your drafts. Consider him a waiver wire watch player to see if he starts getting to his power in games. Otherwise he’s not a fantasy asset at the moment. His prospect pedigree has to start showing on the field before you should roster him unless you are in a deep league or an AL only league.