The Cleveland Guardians are looking to play Josh Naylor in the outfield again.
Josh Naylor isn’t going to let a silly thing like a severely broken ankle stop him from playing in the outfield again, apparently. The Cleveland Guardians’ young slugger saw his career get flipped upside down in the early summer of 2021 when Naylor broke his ankle. It was in the right field of Target Field in Minnesota. A shallow pop-fly into shallow right saw Naylor collide with Ernie Clement.
You would think that collision broke the ankle, right? Nope, he was fine. It was when he landed, that’s when things went badly. His ankle got caught on an awkward angle and when he came down, his ankle got trapped under him and snapped. It was a freak accident that could’ve ended his career.
It didn’t, he came back in 2022 after missing the first seven games and went on to have the best statistical season of his career. All while playing first base. Now with former Pittsburgh Pirate first basemen Josh Bell on the team, many believed Naylor would move to be the team’s designated hitter.
Not for Naylor. Naylor wants to be back in the outfield. Naylor spoke to MLB.com about his future with the club, saying;
"I expected to go back out there this year, and I’m excited for it. I love playing the outfield. It’s honestly a really cool position. And having the honor to play besides [Myles] Straw and [Steven Kwan] and learn from those guys is something I want to do every day."
Should Josh Naylor return to the outfield in 2023?
The Cleveland Guardians have a major question to ask, is wanting to, and being able to, the same thing for Naylor? He had a catastrophic lower leg injury and those don’t always heal right. Asking him to get back out in the outfield is a daunting task for the young man. He wants to, but can he?
I’m no fan of succumbing to one’s fears, so I think the best thing for Naylor is to tackle the challenge of returning to the outfield. On a part-time basis. His mobility will be impacted some, that’s inevitable. And with Oscar Gonzalez warranting more at-bats in 2023, you have to find a place for him and right field makes total sense.
You’re not going to sit Gold Glove-caliber guys like Steven Kwan or Myles Straw. So right field is the option. I would say give Naylor 30-40 games in right and let him see how he plays. If he plays well and moves well, then maybe he becomes the long-term option. If he doesn’t, well, Bell is only here on a two-year contract, with one being an option year.
So maybe if Naylor doesn’t excel in right, or doesn’t recover enough to warrant a starting spot in right, he could then return to first base.