Naylor is a big-bodied kid with some hit and power potential at the first base position. The 12th-overall pick by the Marlins in the 2015 MLB draft, he has hit the ground running in his first full season, going straight to the South Atlantic League out of spring training this year after tearing up the GCL last summer to the tune of a .327 AVG, .352 OBP and .771 OPS through 98 ABs. Thus far in 2016 at 19 years old, Naylor has not skipped a beat despite getting less than 100 ABs in rookie ball, and skipping Short-season A ball all together.
The power has already started to develop, with nine HRs and 24 doubles to go with his ability to make consistent contact (17% strikeout rate). That level of bat control is likely Naylor’s best attribute as a player, and also what pushed the Marlins past other teams that were pursuing the hard-throwing Andrew Cashner (RHP, Marlins…as of last night!). Naylor played his high school ball in Ontario, Canada and is the highest Canadian draft pick in MLB history. Considering how little they get to play up there compared to more southern climates, it makes Naylor’s present level with the bat that much more impressive.
Naylor is not without his flaws, however. In 99 ABs vs. lefties, he is hitting only .212 with 21 punch-outs and a .628 OPS. Some of this I attribute directly to his limited game ABs, and lack of opportunity to really get to see much left-handed pitching. However, Naylor also has some pronounced hip travel that sees him get out heavy on the front side, and while he does do a good job of keeping his hands back, the barrel tends to drag. He still covers the zone well and has very good hand-eye coordination, but he seems limited by his mechanics. He ends up ‘serving’ the ball to center and left field, as he can’t get extended enough to really drive the ball and take full advantage of his strength.
The body looks soft, and he has the potential to get big if he doesn’t take care of it. He will likely always have below-average range at first base, and his feet can get heavy at times causing his hands to stiffen up. With 11 errors through 81 games at first base, it has not been a great defensive showing thus far. However, I again give him the benefit of the doubt here due to the lack of reps he’s gotten throughout his amateur career. He is a much better athlete than the body lets on and just barely has a single full season under his belt. He is a smart base runner and has shown that he can pick his spots (10 stolen bases in 13 attempts this season), so he is not a base clogger, and he has awareness for his age that will serve him well as he advances.
Ultimately, I think the Padres did well in this deal. Cashner, while he has great stuff, has not fared well recently and is a back of the rotation arm that gives up a lot of contact. In Naylor, the Padres got a kid who isn’t yet 20 years old who is showing advanced bat control. I do wonder how he will adjust with his mechanics vs. the better pitching at the upper levels, but he will benefit from the pro level instruction and consistency of play. Now that he is in San Diego he is going to have to stay at first base, as I don’t think he will have the range for even a corner-outfield spot. I’ve heard some people compare him to Billy Butler (DH/1B, A’s), but I think he is probably a better athlete than Butler was at this age with the potential to hit for a bit more power.