Three years from now, Cleveland Indians fans could well see Tyler Naquin and Francisco Lindor together at the top of the lineup at Progressive Field.

Three years from now, Cleveland Indians fans could well see Tyler Naquin and Francisco Lindor together at the top of the lineup at Progressive Field.

Fans of the Akron RubberDucks can see it now.

Naquin and Lindor, the top picks for the Indians in the 2012 and 2011 drafts, respectively, occupy two of the top three spots in the lineup for the RubberDucks. They have played significant roles as the team has gone from one game below .500 in mid-April to 13 games above the break-even mark and first place in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division.

“It’s human nature to think that,” Naquin said of possibly teaming with Lindor at the major league level. “We would love to be there together. Time will tell and we’ll let the front office make those decisions, but for now, we’re just going to play the game.”

For Naquin, the perceived pressure of being the Indians’ top pick (15th overall) in the draft isn’t as much of a burden as fans might expect.

“I think fans put more pressure on (it) themselves for me,” Naquin said. “It’s just where you’re picked. Yeah, you’re the first pick and you make a lot of noise, but just being that first pick is something you can’t worry about. If you let it get under your skin, it’s pressure added and this game’s already too hard.”

Naquin has settled into the top spot in the order after joining the RubberDucks late last season.

His presence at the top of the order and defensive abilities have made him a valuable part of the club, as evidenced by his game-ending play in an April 18 win against Bowie. With the RubberDucks ahead by one run in the bottom of the ninth, Bowie third baseman Buck Britton singled up the middle. Naquin charged, fielded the ground ball and threw out baserunner Sharlon Shoop at the plate to give the RubberDucks a 7-6 win.

“It’s awesome. It’s such a blast, especially ending the game on the road,” Naquin said, “shutting down and (tearing) down their feelings, where they think they’re gonna score the run and possibly tie the game.”

Before a sellout crowd of 8,138 at the RubberDucks Education Day game against Harrisburg on Wednesay, Naquin proved his bat could be just as potent as his right arm. His leadoff home run in the bottom of the first staked Akron to a lead it would never relinquish. For first-year manager Chris Wallace, the blast was a prime example of what Naquin brings to the order.

“He’s a spark plug up there. There’s a lot of different things he can do,” Wallace said. “He can hit for average, he’s got that power in him … and with that speed, he puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He usually works the at-bats well and sees a lot of pitches. We like having him, up there, I’ll say that.”

Reaching Akron in his first full minor league season in 2013 was the latest step in Naquin’s rapid ascent through the Indians’ farm system. It was also the first time living north of the Mason-Dixon line for the Spring, Tex. native.

“It’s a little bit (challenging), yeah, but you signed up for it and you’ve just gotta take what it is,” Naquin said of nomadic lifestyle of a minor league player. “ So, I don’t have a problem with it at all. I just play wherever they put me.”

Naquin plans to put himself squarely in the middle of the organization’s plans for the future and become a building block for the Tribe in the years ahead.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8396 or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
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