A lot has been made of the energy that Padres rookies Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack bring to the Padres. But they’re not the only rookies making an impact.
Josh Naylor is just 21 years old. He’s only been up for about two weeks. By professional baseball standards that’s extremely young. But Naylor doesn’t swing the bat like a kid.
Naylor is already in the Padres top-10 in runs batted in. His mature approach at the plate showed on Saturday night when he faced 3-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. Usually a rookie is going to be overmatched against Mad Max but Naylor hit the ball on the nose three times.
“I felt completely comfortable with him,” said Naylor. “I saw his pitches pretty well. I thought I had really good at-bats against him and him being the phenomenal pitcher that he is I was looking forward to the challenge of trying to put runs on the board for my team and helping the team win.”
He also doesn’t hide the fact that he’s having a great time playing this game, something that is going to endear him to Friars fans and certainly nothing he’s going to try and keep subdued.
“Be who you are and be yourself,” said Naylor of the advice he’s been given about his penchant for letting his joy shine through. “I try to bring a lot of energy to the table and try to excite the guys are get going.”
On Friday night against the Nats, Naylor lined a 2-out RBI single up the middle off All-Star closer Sean Doolittle to tie the game 4-4. When the ball got through the infield Naylor whipped the bat towards the Padres dugout and let loose a triumphant scream. It’s the kind of thing that old-school baseball guys despise but is more and more … not just accepted … but encouraged in today’s game.
So far his first 15 big league games have been everything a rookie can hope it would be.
“It’s been phenomenal. Playing with this group of guys has been incredible. I’m just looking forward to the upcoming days and games and then wins,” said Naylor.
He’s also played much better defense than anyone anticipated. Not bad for a guy who’s a first baseman by trade. When the Padres signed Eric Hosmer most people thought Naylor would be a trade piece. Instead he immediately took to left field to learn a new position.
Naylor has so impressed the Padres that they’re considering moving another outfield piece, perhaps a Wil Myers or Hunter Renfroe, to make room for the budding left-handed bat to get regular playing time. With his infectious enthusiasm Naylor has definitely become a well-liked part of the youngest clubhouse in baseball.
“We always pick each other up when we’re down. We enjoy the moments we have with each other on and off the field and compete when we’re out there.”
Naylor is adding even more evidence that letting the kids play is a good thing for the Padres.