Cincinnati Reds’ Tyler Naquin sends another baseball to heaven against the Pittsburgh Pirates … [+]
When the Cincinnati Reds signed Tyler Naquin to a minor league contract this off-season, they couldn’t foresee the impact it would have on their offensive to kick off the 2021 season.
Naquin absolutely went off the pitch in 2021. Currently, Naquin is tied for the Major League lead at home runs and second at RBI. He also leads the league in Hard Hit% and is in the 98th percentile in Avg. Quit the speed. The man extinguishes baseball. I’m surprised baseballs don’t come to work sick when the Reds are playing.
The Reds’ high-performance offense was a surprising focus of the MLB this season. Even more surprising was Tyler Naquin’s production. However, this breakout could be the culmination of years of crafting. It seems that the right mechanics and a different approach allowed Naquin to experience this renaissance in 2021, forcing his name onto the Cincinnati lineup map.
Tyler Naquin has shown in the past that he can be a capable hitter. In his 2016 rookie season, he scored over 116 games with 133 wRC +. Unfortunately, underperformance and injuries hampered his development over the next two seasons.
In 2019, Naquin returned from a thigh strain and posted a 102 wRC + in 89 games, but then suffered an ACL tear at the end of the season that again undermined the momentum he appeared to be developing. Subsequently, Naquin fought in the anemic outfield of the Cleveland Indians and was given a free hand after the 2020 season.
It seems the Reds decided to search Naquin for organizational depth given the overcrowded outfield between Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker. The Reds, however, have invested a lot more in subpar but still valuable pieces in Nick Senzel and Shogo Akiyama. Naquin’s appearance can actually become a headache when Akiyama returns from the injured list.
The question remains; Is Tyler Naquin’s hot start sustainable?
Probably not. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have the tools to become a regular in everyday life.
First, Tyler Naquin has been tinkering with his mechanics for a while. The swing he has now is not the swing he had last season or the season before.
Naquin’s current setup is much more compact and relaxed, but it also has fewer moving parts. This has helped clean up Naquin’s bat trail and helped Naquin make his swing much more efficient. Considering Naquin’s size, the tidy racket path and delivery of his back helped him get the ball up in the air many times while adding more mass for hitting the racket ball.
Over the years Naquin has gradually balanced his posture, shortened a broad base, brought his hands tighter to his body, and overall less general movements in his lineup. Not only does this help tidy up his mechanics and swing path, but it also helps him see the ball better.
Although it’s early and the sample is small, some adjustments to his approach seem to have helped Naquin in the beginning as well. He’s pulling the ball more than in the past and choosing in this approach made him increase his BB% as well.
During his career, Naquin also struggled to hit the ball with authority on the opposite field. Naquin has posted a career of 93.2 Avg Exit Velo on opposing field hits with an 11 degree Avg prior to this season. He posted an average of 88.9 on all balls hit over the same period. Leave Velo and 22 degrees avg. Start the angle to the opposite field.
His two balls struck across the field that season were hit 96.1 and 99.8 mph, respectively, for a double and a home run. He shows that he wants to move, but is now developing the confidence to drive the ball onto the opposite field.
It must be reiterated that it’s early in the season and the sample size is small, but the mechanical changes Tyler Naquin made to his swing seem like changes that are sustainable.
After the departure of Asst. The Cincinnati Reds and coach Alan Zinter, who met coach Donnie Ecker and a disappointing offensive season in 2020, appear to have made up for that supposed loss in Ecker’s absence. 2020 was a season that could be defined by the Reds’ frustratingly low BABIP teams, but now, in 2021, things seem to be going in their direction. Or maybe they found a hidden gem in Tyler Naquin to complement their strong offense.