Josh Naylor’s playing time with the Padres remains unclear. Could he latch on as the team’s designated hitter in a shortened season?
As a former first-round pick of the Miami Marlins, Josh Naylor came to the Padres in 2016 as part of the Andrew Cashner deal. He’s generally been able to hit for average and power in the minors and played in 94 games at the big league level last year as well.
Naylor showed up to spring training, having lost a significant amount of weight, hoping to stick in a permanent capacity. In 2019, Naylor posted a .249/.315/.403 line with 15 doubles, eight home runs, and 32 RBI. And with a shortened season potentially implementing the universal DH, has Naylor carved out a role for himself?
Statcast Batting Statistics
Last year, Naylor put the barrel to the ball at a 6.3 percent clip. Balls left the bat at an average exit velocity of 89.6 MPH and a launch angle of 4.5 degrees. He demonstrated solid patience, taking walks at a nine percent rate while striking out less than 23 percent of the time.
If Naylor can adjust to breaking balls – .145 average against in 2019 – he can justify the transition in the DH role. He hit .311 off fastballs and .214 on offspeed pitches. On breaking balls, Naylor hit them at a -1-degree launch angle, meaning he hit them for groundballs when contact was made.
Batted Ball Statistics
Naylor was a mixed bag in terms of balls put in play. He hit nearly 17 percent line drives, 53 percent groundballs, and 30 percent flyballs. Of concern, he hit infield flyballs at a 12.3 percent clip.
That said, he spread the ball around quite well: 38.9 percent to right field, 37.4 percent to center, and 23.7 percent to left field. And with just an 18.4 percent soft contact rate, Naylor strikes the ball well.
At 5-foot-11, 250 pounds, Naylor is never going to be a stolen base threat. He converted on 1-of-2 chances last year, both opportunities coming at second base. Naylor also recorded three outs on the basepaths, so he’ll need to clean that up as well.
Exactly why he’s the perfect fit for the universal DH, Naylor is a mess in the field. He logged 62 games in the outfield last year, recording a .936 fielding percentage in the process. He committed six errors and displayed terrible range. Naylor was given a -16 rating for defensive runs saved above average per 1,200 innings.
Either Wil Myers or Naylor seem destined for the universal DH role, whether it be this season or next. The latter would make the most sense given his potential at the plate, and Myers is a competent outfielder.