Black MiLB Players #9: Bo Naylor
One of the only few Black catchers in MiLB/MLB that is not Afro-Latino, Bo Naylor is one of the core pieces in Cleveland’s farm system. The catcher from Toronto, Canada offers an uncommon blend of intelligence, athleticism, and skill behind the plate.
Background + Path to Professional Baseball
Noah “Bo” Naylor is a twenty-one-year-old catcher in the Cleveland Guardians organization from Toronto, Canada. The Naylor family has MLB bloodlines as Bo’s older brother Josh currently plays for the Cleveland Guardians major league ball club. The youngest brother Myles is expected to be a pick in an MLB Draft directly out of high school like his two older siblings. Naylor was identified as one of the best amateur baseball players in his age group from Canada by the time he was in high school, playing for Canada’s U18 Baseball World Cup Team in 2017 and playing for Canada’s junior national team.
The middle Naylor brother committed to Texas A&M for a full baseball scholarship and was drafted by the Cleveland Guardians in the first round(29th overall) of the 2018 MLB Draft out of St. Joan of Arc High School in Mississauga, Ontario. Naylor signed his professional contract and agreed to a $2,578,138 signing bonus before beginning his career as a professional baseball player.
Naylor began his professional career in the Arizona Rookie League level of Minor League Baseball at the age of 18, appearing in 33 games between catcher and third base. He put up a .274/.381/.402 slash line while drawing 21 walks and striking out 28 times, which grades out to a 126 wRC+. In his second season and a first full season of professional baseball the Cleveland Indians front office decided to place the Canadian catcher on the fast track with an unprecedented move by putting him with the Low-A affiliate at the age of 19. Naylor being a catcher is what made this move so bold, as it meant Cleveland thought very highly of Naylor’s capabilities as a player that they decided to fast-track him. The long development time and attrition rate for the catching position, especially catchers drafted directly out of high school compounds the rarity of the situation.
In 107 games at Low-A in 2019, he put up a .243/.313/.421 slash line with 18 doubles, 10 triples, and 11 home runs while making stellar progress behind the plate defensively. Evaluators were impressed with how he handled the challenge of full-season baseball and managing a pitching staff as a catcher for the first time. Naylor was one of the youngest players in Low-A throughout the year and was the only teenage catcher in Low-A at one point. Due to the 2020 MiLB season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic Naylor was the Cleveland Alternate Site during 2020, where individuals were pleased with his progress in the batter’s box and behind the plate. His handling of the organization’s best pitchers and competitiveness in the batter’s box against them stood out.
Naylor has played 61 games so far during the 2021 MiLB season, all of them with the Cleveland Double-A affiliate in Akron, Ohio. While he has struggled mightily, he has shown flashes of skill and the underlying numbers tell us that there is no need to panic. Some facts help his case, with the main one being that Naylor is one of the youngest players in all three Double-A leagues. He is also one of the youngest catchers to get a qualified amount of plate appearances for a Double-A affiliate during 2021.
Bo Naylor is 6'0'’, weighs 195 pounds, bats left-handed, and throws right-handed. He is solidly built with broad shoulders and strong arms, and a core and lower half that is chiseled and ready for the wear and tear of catching.
Naylor has a fluid left-handed swing geared towards an all fields approach. He has a great understanding of the strike zone, especially for someone so young based on the fact that he has maintained respectable walk rates while being fast-tracked against competition that is far older than him. He hits for a respectable amount of power, especially for a catcher. He has an average exit velocity of 89 miles per hour, makes hard contact 35% of the time, and has a maximum exit velocity of 106 miles per hour.
He is easily one of the best runners, and purest athletes you’ll see behind the plate, and he uses it to enhance his defense. Naylor has good pop times combined with a 55-grade arm and above-average lateral range for blocking balls bounced in the dirt. He has steadily improved at this facet of the game behind the plate. Evaluators have expressed concern about his ability to frame pitches and call games, but he has quelled those concerns handling advanced pitching staffs as one of the youngest players in both of the full-season levels he’s played in so far in his career.