Miami Marlins: What To Make of Josh Naylor?

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Last week, the Miami Marlins took 1B Josh Naylor with the 12th overall pick. Last week, I listed 5 players who I felt were worthy enough to be taken with this pick. In case you’re wondering but don’t want to open the link, I did not include Naylor in this list. So did the Miami Marlins make a good pick? And what can we make of Josh Naylor? 

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Let’s start with Naylor himself. The power is impressive and probably the best in this year’s draft. It’s easily plus, but I think it’s a little more than that, so I’ll say it’s 60+. He makes very hard contact and can put on some pretty good shows in batting practice, but his power isn’t top-of-the-chart 80 grade like we see from hitters like Giancarlo Stanton and Prince Fielder.

Regardless of how his hit tool develops, he should be able to hit 30 home runs, with the potential for 35+ down the road. Right now, the swing needs some work. He needs to be a little quieter with his hands and needs to work on his balance through his swing, but those are things he’ll work on just by getting reps in. It looks like he’s going to have some swing and miss to his game, but the ball really does jump off the bat very well. He definitely maximizes the contact he makes.

The defensive aspect of Naylor’s game really lags behind. He is a very poor runner and is not going to move very well, even at first base. The arm is above average, if he ever manages to improve enough to play the outfield, but that doesn’t seem likely. He definitely seems destined for a DH role in the future. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s a bat only prospect, but his bat is well ahead of his defense.

I do like Naylor as a prospect; the power is very nice. Right now, the power is his only standout tool and drafting a player with one above average tool at 12 overall doesn’t make much sense. Basically, the overall value doesn’t seem to justify the pick.

The pick would have made a lot of sense if they intended to sign him to a below slot deal to save money on someone like Duke RHP Mike Matuella, a potential first overall pick who fell to 78th overall due to the fact that he missed most of this past season because of Tommy John surgery. Signing him would likely mean going over slot to do so and if the team saved money by drafting and signing Naylor, they could afford to go over slot. The team did not employ this strategy, which is really my only issue.

The team didn’t get enough value out of its first round pick in drafting an above average hitter who might not even be able to handle first base. The power is a very good tool, but drafting a player for just one tool usually isn’t a good idea in the first round.

So what kind of player are we looking at here? His power is definitely going to play and he should be able to support an average BABIP or so on the strength of his contact quality alone. The ability to make contact is what could make him an all star caliber player. Offensively, he’s probably pretty similar to Pedro Alvarez, but Alvarez was also drafted as a third baseman and played a number of years there before making the switch to first this season. While he doesn’t provide much defensive value, he provides more than Naylor probably will, so Naylor will have to hit even more to provide the same overall value.

I don’t think he has the same power as Chris Davis, but I could see him turning into a 40 home run guy potentially. I think this serves to be an offensive ceiling for Naylor but he’s also a pretty risky prospect.

Ultimately, I could see him being a Brandon Moss type: a platoon bat that absolutely mashes righties. I think this is the most fair and likely scenario and it would result in a good player. In a weak draft class that didn’t have a clear cut first overall pick, ending up with a Brandon Moss would be a win. The Marlins probably passed up guys with higher ceilings to get Naylor, however, and for all the Prince Fielder comparisons, they don’t really compare as prospects. Fielder was an advanced hitter with a 60 hit tool and 80 grade power, so he was leaps and bounds better as a hitter. He was also much more athletic than Naylor, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Naylor’s defense turns out to be worse than Fielder’s.

This, like many other things, is incredibly nuanced. I like Naylor as a prospect, but not the 12th overall one in the draft. I think the Marlins could have snagged him later or gone over slot on a guy who slipped and they could have had themselves a pretty good draft. Chances are, I would have congratulated them on it. That didn’t happen, however, and they reached for a guy with one clear cut above average tool.

Instead of taking the best pick available, they added a perceived need, and the thin farm system won’t be much better because of it. With all the promotions of top prospects this season, I think Naylor ends up ranked in the 75-100 range, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t get ranked. For a team that relies on developing most of its talent, that’s just not going to cut it.

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