By Andrew Martin
Tyler Naquin grew up literally surrounded by baseball. When he was just getting interested in the game his father converted two acres of pasture at their Spring, Texas home into a baseball diamond. It proved to be a fortuitous decision, as Naquin has developed into one of the best young prospects in baseball.
Naquin is a left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing outfielder out of Texas A&M University, who was taken this year by the Cleveland Indians with the 15th overall pick in the first round of this year’s MLB Draft. He is considered an on-base machine and a plus defender, with a cannon for an arm. He hit .348 during his career as an Aggie and was tabbed by Baseball America the best hitter and having the best outfield arm of any player in this year’s draft. While he is not considered a power hitter, many believe he can eventually develop into a 15-20 home run lead-off guy down the road.
Assigned to short season Mahonging Valley in the New York-Penn League, Naquin is already off to an impressive start to his professional career. I was recently able to catch up with this exciting prospect prior a game and got him to open up about his background and baseball.
Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up?
To be honest I just watched mainly the Astros. I really liked watching Craig Biggio and I also liked Ken Griffey, Jr. when he was with the Mariners. I had a jersey of Griffey, so probably him.
Is there a particular player you model your game after?
A lot of Ichiro, just from the throwing standpoint. A lot of Jacoby Ellsbury. Mainly those two guys.
How did you end up at Texas A&M?
I was recruited by Texas, Baylor, Arkansas, and schools like that. A&M was the closest one to my house and I hadn’t had any recruitment letters or anything from them, and my coach sent them an email and said, “Hey, Naquin hasn’t signed with anybody,” and they said “Alright, come on and visit,” and that’s how it ended up.
What was your draft experience like?
It was an emotional roller coaster to be honest. I was projected 20th to the 30th pick, and getting picked 15th, you just kind of… I didn’t really know what to say at that moment.
How far in advance of the pick did the Indians contact you to let you know you were being considered?
I had no clue.
How difficult is it to transition from metal to wooden bats?
It’s fine. It takes two or three weeks to really hone in and get back in the groove of things after not playing. With a wooden bat, you just find a model you like and start swinging.
What is one piece of advice you have received since starting your pro career that has helped the most?
Don’t be a numbers guy. I’ve never been a numbers guy and numbers will take care of themselves. Just go out there and stay healthy and let your ability take over. You’re here for a reason; to just play hard every day.
What was your experience like in Cleveland after they drafted you?
They flew me, my mom, and my dad up. My brother wasn’t able to go. They flew us three up and put us in a suite. We signed a contract and went to a game. I was on the radio, television, and types of great stuff. They took real good care of us. I did my physical up there in the big league complex and met a lot of guys like Johnny Damon, a bunch of guys like that, so it was awesome.
Be sure to check out Tyler Naquin’s Baseball Cards.