Indians 2012 first-round draft pick Tyler Naquin struggled in a short stint at the Double-A level at the end of last season and got off to a similarly sluggish start this year.
Through his first 18 games this season, Naquin was hitting .250 with a .320 on base percentage and .353 slugging percentage. He had walked in 8 percent of his plate appearances and struck out a worrying 33 percent of the time.
On April 24, Naquin, who has tinkered with his stance over the last year, said he finally felt comfortable and predicted a breakout coming.
His prediction has held up, as he has hit .353/.417/.431 in 13 games since then, boosting his walk rate to 12 percent and cutting his strikeout rate more than half to 15 percent.
“He’s getting ready earlier in his load and then his shift to his swing is happening when the ball is coming out of the pitcher’s hand as opposed to already being halfway there,” RubberDucks manager David Wallace said. “That’s allowing him to recognize pitches better and lay off the bad ones and swinging at the ones he wants to swing at.”
Lindor showing more pop
Aside from his stellar defense at shortstop, perhaps the most impressive thing that then 19-year-old top prospect Francisco Lindor showcased in his 21-game stint at the Double-A level last season was his mature approach at the plate.
Lindor walked twice as often as he struck out, drawing 14 walks to seven strikeouts. To put into perspective how impressive that is, especially for the league’s youngest hitter, only four players in the MLB last season had more walks than strikeouts.
This year, that trend has reversed, as his walk rate has dropped five percentage points and he has 22 strikeouts to 13 walks. However, Lindor has remained just as productive thanks to a spike in his power output.
After hitting just one home run and five extra base hits in 21 games last season, Lindor has three homers and eight extra-base hits in 30 games this year.
“We haven’t expressed to him that we want to see more power or a different approach,” Wallace said. “We just want him to have the good plate discipline that he has and put his ‘A’ swing on balls whether it’s the first pitch or the eighth pitch of the at-bat. He has shown a little bit more power, but that’s just the result of another year of maturing physically.”
The Indians’ third-ranked prospect, Cody Anderson, has struggled on the mound this season. After allowing eight earned runs in less than three innings on Wednesday, his ERA is up to 4.98 for the season.
Perhaps more concerning than the ERA, though, is Anderon’s drop in strikeout rate. He has struck out just 10.6 percent of the batters he’s faced this season, a far cry from the 22.3 percent rate he posted between High-A and Double-A last year.
Wallace says that Anderson’s fastball velocity is normal, but that some mechanical problems are causing him to lose command.
When he falls behind early in the count, he is forced to pitch to contact rather than miss bats. Once the command comes back and Anderson gets to work more ahead in the count, Wallace believes the strikeouts will follow.