For the first time in his professional career, Josh Naylor played the outfield. However, his performance at the plate for Double-A San Antonio is what stood out Saturday.Naylor acquitted himself well in left field, recording one putout on his lone chance. But in the first game of a doubleheader against
For the first time in his professional career, Josh Naylor played the outfield. However, his performance at the plate for Double-A San Antonio is what stood out Saturday.
Naylor acquitted himself well in left field, recording one putout on his lone chance. But in the first game of a doubleheader against Arkansas, the Padres' No. 16 prospect cracked a pair of two-run homers to provide the difference in the Missions' 6-2 victory. He carried that momentum into the nightcap, going 2-for-3 with a two-run double and a sacrifice fly in a 5-3 win.
"You can tell he's locked in right now," Missions manager Phillip Wellman said.
The former first-round pick lined out to center field in his first at-bat of the day before drawing a walk in the second inning. In the fifth, he worked the count to 2-0 against reliever Chase De Jong, who left a pitch over the heart of the plate. Naylor promptly deposited it to right field. Two innings later, the 20-year-old fell behind left-hander Joe Pistorese, 1-2, but pounced on another mistake and again cleared the right-field fence.
"He's not chasing anything out of the zone," Wellman said. "He's showing some discipline and some patience at the plate. When he gets it, he's not missing it. The power has always been there, but you still need to get a decent pitch to drive."
Game 1 Box Score
It was the first multi-homer game for Naylor since May 23, 2016, when he was with the Marlins organization. Miami traded Naylor to San Diego two months later as part of a package that included right-handers Jarred Cosart, Luis Castillo and Carter Capps.
With the Missions holding a one-run lead and looking for insurance in the seventh, the 5-foot-11, 250-pound slugger doubled off the center-field wall -- missing his third homer of the day by a couple of feet -- to make it 4-1 and provide some breathing room.
The Mississauga, Ontario, native had help on the offensive side in both games. Padres No. 30 prospect Michael Gettys went 2-for-3 with a two-run single in the opener, while 29th-ranked Austin Allen hit a solo homer in Game 2. With Allen batting in the seventh in the nightcap, Naylor scored the Missions' final run by darting home after a wild pitch.
San Antonio ended up needing those runs as Arkansas scored twice in the bottom half and brought the go-ahead run to the plate before the Missions completed the sweep.
Naylor's time in the Texas League, where he hit .250 with two homers in 156 at-bats following a midseason promotion last year has helped his hot start to 2018. Wellman said he could only name two or three guys other than Naylor who have transitioned as well, and the veteran skipper characterized the jump as one of the biggest in a player's development.
"This year, it looks like he knew exactly what to expect when he got here," Wellman said. "He's off to a rip-roaring start."
Wellman anticipates Naylor will play "a couple days a week" in left, spending the rest of the time at the more familiar first base. That was the plan going into the spring, the manager said, and the organization wants it to continue throughout the season. The Padres made sure they gave Naylor enough exposure to the outfield in Arizona to establish a comfort level.
One game in, Wellman liked what he saw from Naylor in left, complimenting his catch for the first out of the seventh.
"He did well in Spring Training playing left," Wellman said. "His one game out there today, he had a ground ball hit to him. He had a fly ball that he had to go to his right to the left field line [to get]. It was a shallow ball right down the line and he made a very good play on that."
Chris Bumbaca is a contributor for MiLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca.