Tyler Naquin: Breakout or No? – MLB Sports

February 18th, Reds signed outfielder Tyler Naquin To a minor league contract with a non-list invitation to major league spring training. It’s not this kind of transaction that typically produces analysis here in FanGraphs. It’s a standard depth move of the time, and something like signing every team is a multiple of every offseason. Flashforwarded almost three months later, and after impressive spring training, Nakin made it into the Top 15 in the National League wRC + and became part of the best attack on the senior circuit. The Reds are using their daily strategy to defeat their opponents to make up for what was a disastrous pitching staff, with results so far hovering at around .500.

Hot stars always occur. A week should be immediately rejected as a small sample that does not deserve actual scrutiny, but a month is worth investigating. Where did the player come from? Has anything changed? Is this sustainable? For Nakin, the answer is a bit vague.

Nakin’s background is unique. Although the 2012 draft was weak as a college fielder, Nakin was still ranked second overall in 15th place. There was much debate about the ability to stay center-field and the ultimate power cap, but Scouts were universal to admire the hit tools of Texas A & M products. The last two years as Aggie.

His minor league career was full of good seasons as he climbed the ladder (perhaps slower than Cleveland expected), but he was called in 2016 and unexpectedly on his way to 2.1 WAR in 116 games. Showed the power of. He’s still a disagreeable number as the next year was defined by injury and inconsistent performance, swinging between the status of the fourth outfielder and Quad A. Overtime, and out of patience, Nakin suddenly became a six-year free agent looking for a job this winter. The Reds offered him the best deal in terms of the combination of money and opportunity, and he certainly took advantage of it.

When watching 29 performance games, the first question to ask is whether the player was lucky. For Nakin, the answer is yes, but not the way you expect. His .279 BABIP is actually below his career rate and his HR / FB% is ranked 6th in the NL. Many of them are features of Nakin’s very friendly home park. His exit speed is skyrocketing, but they’re just back to the level he was last good at (read 2016 and 19). In addition, there is Nakin’s opponent, more specifically the Pittsburgh Pirates, who was at the wrong end of half of his eight home runs. Naquin has a long hit of 1.314 in five games against black and gold. In 24 games against other teams, he has dropped to .446. He is hitting bad pitching, which is what every good batter does. And he is using his stadium. This is also what every good batter does. But he doesn’t say he was overly lucky in a way that his performance was misleading.

Looking at his approach, things get a little more interesting. During the breakout of the rookie campaign, Nakin was far from a walking machine, but pulled a free pass with a tolerance of just under 10%. From 2017 to 20 years, that percentage dropped to an unacceptable 4.1%. This year he’s approaching double-digit percentages again, but changing the approach isn’t just one of increasing pitch, it’s one of better swing decisions, and there’s a subtle difference between the two. .. Yes, he doesn’t chase a little and swings a little more in the zone, but what we see is more fast swings and less slow swings.

First, let’s take a look at his opening ceremony swing rate.

Tyler Naquin opening ceremony%

Year Ceremonial first pitch%
2018 26.2%
2019 33.7%
2020 36.9%
2021 41.7%

It’s early aggression and a good strategy in baseball today. With so much power staff (and the consequent loss of command) and good batter patience, first-pitch strike stealing is becoming a more frequent approach. Baseball has many autotakers, and pitchers often groove ceremonial first pitches to anticipate counts and expand future options in terms of usage and location. But, as I said earlier, Naquin isn’t shaking more overall. His reduction in steps was primarily the result of what the evaluators call a “two-strike panic.” One strike away from the batter’s turn at bat, the zone expands and tends to swing at a bad pitch. Naquin maintains his zone despite two strikes this year.

Tyler Naquin after two strikes

Year BB% K%
2018 4.4 46.2
2019 5.3 5.3 43.7
2020 6.8 54.0
2021 14.3 46.4

Sure it’s soft science and a little amateur psychology, but this combination makes Nakin feel more comfortable in the box. He is relaxed and confident, no matter how many, and the combination often leads to better production.

In addition to the approach changes, Nakin has made subtle changes to the actual swing mechanics. According to the data, he is pulling the ball further and hitting more balls in the air. He seems to have made a slight physical adjustment. Let’s take a look at the 2018 home runs and Monday night home runs. First, take a look at the setup.

Notice the difference. Two years ago, Nakin was sitting a little, but notice how the upper half is wrapped while the lower half is slightly open (read the number and name on the back of the jersey). can do). For the two halves, he was disconnected before the swing began, limiting the ability to adjust within the pitch with respect to some player positions. This year’s Reds are a different story. He is relaxed, set up quickly and the top and bottom halves are well aligned. The only knock here is that we want to return the bat itself to its 2018 position. It’s already in the swing plane, so no additional movement is needed to get there. Next, let’s look at what happens at the beginning of the swing, as defined by what the body looks like on a forefoot strike.

Tyler Naquin Swing: 2018 and 2020

Again, the difference is clear. In the case of Cleveland, Naquin was what the Scouts called an open-to-closed hitter. He landed in a closed position after a slightly open setup. This will increase the contact between the center and the oppo, while maintaining a stance immediately after a foot strike this year, simplifying the overall operation and allowing more balls to be turned on.

What I’m most concerned about Nakin’s surge is how many pitchers are playing in his game and how it will change when pre-scouts start their work. .. Like most batters, Nakin has a real problem breaking things, and he suddenly sees less braking pitch for reasons that are hard to understand. In a world where pitchers deviate more than ever from heaters, Naquin saw more than 70% of fastballs in 2021. From now on, it will almost certainly drop, so you need to keep counting in a way that reduces the count. A chance to see such a pitch. In addition, his new tendency to enter the opening ambush mode should be identified immediately, encouraging the team to be a little more creative with him early in the count.

Nakin’s breakout is a combination of good luck created by a home park and a weak opponent, but there are also some real changes in the approach to the plate and the approach to the swing itself that show real improvement. It feels a bit aggressive to say he finishes the year as the top 10 aggressive performers in the National League, but it’s certainly the most likely range to finish the year as an above average producer. I feel it is in.

– MLB Sports

Tyler Naquin: Breakout or No? Tyler Naquin: Breakout or No?

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