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Josh Naylor

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Joshua-Douglas James Naylor

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Biographical Information[edit]

First baseman Josh Naylor was selected by the Miami Marlins in the first round of the 2015 amateur draft with the 12th overall pick. He made his pro debut that summer with the GCL Marlins, hitting .327 in 25 games. He had hit .484/.556/.903 for Canada in the 2015 U-18 Baseball World Cup and was named the All-Star first baseman.

He has a reputation as someone who likes playing practical jokes and pranks, but that proved costly in June of 2016 when he injured teammate and fellow prospect Stone Garrett in a prank that involved a knife. While full details were not released by the Marlins, the end result was that Garrett had to have stitches and suffered nerve damage in his thumb requiring surgery. Naylor was suspended for one game for his role in the affair. On the field, he was selected to play in the 2016 Futures Game as part of the World team, the on July 29th, he was traded to the San Diego Padres as part of a seven-played blockbuster deal that brought starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea to Miami.

He was a member of the Canadian national team for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, although he saw little action with Freddie Freeman starting at first base and Justin Morneau playing DH. He returned to the Futures Game in 2017, again as a member of the World team. In 2018, the Padres switched him from first base to the outfield after signing Eric Hosmer to a long-term free agent contract, locking up the position for the foreseeable future. He played 128 games for the San Antonio Missions of the AA Texas League that year, hitting .297/.383/.447 with 17 homers and 74 RBIs.

He got to make his debut in his hometown as he was called up to the majors on May 24, 2019 with the Padres on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays. He went 0 for 4 as the designated hitter in a 6-3 win. The next day, he started in right field and collected his first major league hit in the 1st inning, an RBI double off Edwin Jackson. He collected two more hits before the end of the day as the Padres won handily, 19-4. He split his time between left field and right field the rest of the way, hitting .249 in 94 games, with 8 homers, 29 runs and 32 RBIs. The Padres had a very crowded outfield, as he had to fight for playing time with Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes and Wil Myers, all of whom got regular playing time, not to mention Alex Dickerson, Nick Martini and Travis Jankowski, who appeared in the majors, and prospects knocking at the door like Edward Olivares and Taylor Trammell. The Padres began dealing away some of the surplus, with Margot, Renfroe and Reyes all leaving in separate deals, but two other outfielders in Tommy Pham and Trent Grisham joined the ranks as part of the shuffle. So Josh was still fighting for playing time at the start of 2020, only appearing in 18 games over the first five weeks, and hitting .278 with 1 homer and 4 RBIs. The Padres were a much improved team and as the trading deadline loomed, began to make deals to address areas of weakness. Both Olivares and Trammell were used as trade chips, and on August 31st, Josh joined them when he was sent to the Cleveland Indians alongside C Austin Hedges, P Cal Quantrill and three top prospects - Gabriel Arias, Owen Miller and Joey Cantillo - to obtain ace P Mike Clevinger and OF Greg Allen. He hit .230 in 22 games for the Indians, to finish at .247 with 1 homer and 6 RBIs. Naylor made his debut for the Indians on the day of the trade, making an out as a pinch-hitter. He then was the Indians' best hitter in the postseason, when they were swept in two games by the New York Yankees in the Wild Card Series, going 5 for 7 with 3 doubles and 1 homer.

On April 14, 2021, he came within a whisker of breaking up Chicago White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon's bid for a perfect game. As the lead-off batter in the 9th, he hit a ground ball to 1B Jose Abreu who beat him to the bag by the slightest margin, the two sliding almost simultaneously. The next batter, Roberto Pérez, was hit by a pitch to end the perfect game, but Rodon did pitch a no-hitter. On June 27th, he suffered a serious ankle injury in a collision in the outfield in the 4th inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins. He collided with 2B Ernie Clement and landed awkwardly after jumping to get out of the way. He had to be carted off the field with a fracture and did not play again that season. He was off to a solid start, batting .253 with 7 homers and 21 RBIs in 69 games, one of the better marks on a team struggling to find any offense.

He returned to the now-Cleveland Guardians as their first baseman at the start of the 2022 season. On May 9th, he did something unprecedented when he collected 8 RBIs in a 12-9 win over the Chicago White Sox - all of them starting in the 8th inning! He hit a double in the 8th to drive in a first run, added a grand slam off closer Liam Hendriks in the 9th, and then a three-run blast off Ryan Burr in the 11th to provide Cleveland with its margin of victory. The grand slam, the first of his career, came with two outs and capped a six-run comeback in the top of the 9th that forced the playing of extra innings, and the two teams also exchanged single runs in the 10th. The Guardians' winning probability was 0.2% entering the top of the 9th with a six-run deficit. No player had ever hit two homers worth three runs or more each in the 9th inning or later, and only two others in Cleveland history had ever hit two homers of any kind in the 9th or later (Earl Averill and Willie Kirkland). He hit another dramatic home run on June 29th, this one in the bottom of the 10th against Jharel Cotton of the Minnesota Twins. The Twins had scored 3 runs in the top of the 10th to take a 6-3 lead, but Cleveland countered against Emilio Pagan and Cotton, bringing up Josh with two out and a runner on second, with the score now 6-5 for Minnesota. Twins C Ryan Jeffers first allowed a passed ball to move the runner, Amed Rosario, to third base, and Naylor then hit a long fly ball down the left field line that landed in the seats for a walk-off homer, giving the Guardians spectacular 7-6 win. He went on to celebrate effusively, even giving a head-butt to manager Terry Francona. Luckily, Francona was wearing a helmet, so he escaped without damage. Josh hit .256 in 122 games that season, with 20 homers and 79 RBIs, for an OPS+ of 121. He was in the middle of some controversy in the postseason when, after hitting a home run off Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees in the 4th inning of Game 4 of the Division Series on October 16th, he made a rocking-the-baby motion while circling the bases. The Yankees fans, showing their well-known sense of restraint, declared him public enemy number 1 because of him and booed him relentlessly in Game 5, in a display of class that only they can display.

He decided to skip the 2023 World Baseball Classic, even though his younger brother Bo Naylor, who had made his debut with the Guardians in the final days of the previous season, was the starting catcher for Team Canada, which could have used his bat in the line-up as it was forced to start a couple of inexperienced players in the outfield after losing 1B Freddie Freeman to a hamstring injury. He was once again one of the Guardians' best hitters in the first half of the 2023 season, batting .295 with an OPS+ of 124 after 65 games. On June 21st, when Bo, who had started the year in AAA, collected his first major league hit in a game against the Oakland Athletics, he was probably even more excited than his younger sibling. Bo had been 0 for 17 for his career at that point, and the hit came at a crucial point of the game, with Cleveland down 6-5 in the 8th, so it's understandable that Josh was elated. The hit started a two-run rally for a 7-6 win. On July 14th, in the Guardians' first game after the All-Star break, he and Bo both hit two-run homers in the 3rd inning of a game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park. They were the first pair of brothers to hit multi-run homers for the same team in the same inning, and only the 13th pair to both homer in the same game. Unfortunately, the Rangers then scored 12 unanswered runs to win the game, 12-4. He finished the season at .308 in 121 games, with 31 doubles and 17 homers for an OPS+ of 133. He fell just shy of the 100-RBI mark, ending the year at 97. He received some down-ballot consideration in the MVP vote, then was named the winner of the Tip O'Neill Award as the best ballplayer from Canada.

On April 10, 2024, Josh and Bo both homered in the 4th inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox, repeating their feat from the previous year, then Josh tied the game with a double in the 10th inning before Bo delivered the game-winning hit with the bases loaded for a 7-6 win. The two-homer inning was only the 10th recorded instance of such a feat, and it helped to erase a five-run deficit. Moreover, the game was played on National Siblings Day.

His younger brother, Bo, was selected 29th overall in the 2018 amateur draft, by the Indians and reached the majors in 2022. A third brother, Myles Naylor, was taken by the Oakland Athletics in the Competitive Balance Round A in the 2023 amateur draft. His cousin is Denzel Clarke.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL All-Star (2024)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2022)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mandy Bell: "8 RBIs ... starting in the 8th?! History for Naylor", mlb.com, May 10, 2022. [1]
  • Mandy Bell: "Naylor walks off Twins, headbutts Francona in wild celebration", mlb.com, June 30, 2022. [2]
  • Mandy Bell: "Bo Naylor happy to get 1st MLB hit -- but not as much as brother Josh", mlb.com, June 21, 2023. [3]
  • Mandy Bell: "Naylor brothers make history with home runs vs. Texas", mlb.com, July 15, 2023. [4]
  • Mandy Bell: "Bash brothers: Naylors homer in same frame, then win game on Sibling Day", mlb.com, April 10, 2024. [5]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Meet the 3rd Naylor brother, who's waiting in the wings: Top 60 Draft prospect makes splash at Combine, discusses following in siblings' footsteps", mlb.com, June 21, 2023. [6]
  • Cole Jacobson: "The breakout star driving MLB's surprise team: Josh Naylor is a rarity among even MLB's best hitters. Can he keep it going?", mlb.com, April 28, 2024. [7]

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