Sophomore Slump Earns Tyler Naquin A Demotion

An outstanding rookie season doesn’t guarantee a player anything the following year.

Just ask outfielder Tyler Naquin.

Naquin went from being the starting center fielder on a World Series team as a rookie to being the odd man out in the Indians’ outfield a year later.

In a move that was a surprise to some, but only a mild one, Cleveland optioned Naquin to Triple-A Columbus less than two weeks into the 2017 season.

It was a dramatic turn of events for the 25-year-old, who produced one of the franchise’s most memorable moments on Aug. 19 last year when he became the first Indians player in 100 years to hit a walk-off inside-the-park home run.

Naquin earned the American League’s rookie-of-the-month distinction in June and July. Overall, he hit .296/.372/.514 with 14 home runs in 116 games and finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

But there were signs late in the year that opposing pitchers had found some holes in Naquin’s swing. He hit just .193 in August. In his last 22 games, 11 in the regular season and the 11 in the postseason, he hit .208 with no home runs, three RBIs and 25 strikeouts in 53 at-bats.

Naquin hit .333 in 39 at-bats during spring training, but he started the regular season in a 4-for-17 funk. When outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was activated from the disabled list in mid-April and a roster spot had to be created, the decision came down to a choice between Naquin and Abraham Almonte.

Almonte, a switch-hitter, got the nod over the lefthanded-hitting Naquin, but Indians manager Terry Francona said that Naquin, a 2012 first-round pick from Texas A&M, was still firmly in the club’s plans.

“Nobody is giving up on Tyler,” Francona said. “It would surprise me if he isn’t back here helping us win games.”

— Jim Ingraham is a columnist for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram/Medina Gazette

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