Last week, outfielder Josh Naylor was interviewed by Gwynn & Chris of 97.3 THE FAN—an altogether great radio program in the afternoon drivetime hours.
I was excited to hear Josh interview because, from what I’ve seen, he’s got a fiery personality, is Canadian, and, well, doesn’t exactly look like a physical Adonis. That last point—that of Josh’s physique—was actually touched on by Tony Gwynn Jr., and the results were...somewhat awkward.
Gwynn: “One of the things that to me is uncanny watching you swinging the bat is that you have a lot of similarities to Prince Fielder...Have you heard that comparison before?”
Naylor, sounding uncomfortable: Um, yeah I have. Especially before my professional career, I got a lot of comps to him and stuff, and, you know, bigger hitters like that, but it is what it is—I don’t try to hit like him or be like him.
This was just one cringe-worthy moment in what was altogether a great interview (available below), but man did I want to crawl into the glovebox of my Scion listening to that exchange. Check it out around the 5:00 mark.
What’s most obvious about the back-and-forth is that Josh Naylor has been asked a lot about his appearance—and that interviewers, like Gwynn, try to soften the blow of the real question by comparing Naylor to, in Naylor’s words, “bigger” hitters like Fielder.
But let’s call it what it is: Naylor is chunky, yo.
And you know what else? Mans can hit.
Loving the skin you’re in
First, let me advocate for my use of the word “chunky”. Some people would call Naylor “fat”, but “fat” is almost universally an epithet used to make people feel shame and, in our tolerance-minded times, we will steer way clear of making our young outfielder feeling bad about his girthy frame.
“Chunky”, meanwhile, has better associations. Peanut Butter can be chunky. Rocky Road is chunky. The audio mixing on Portishead’s Dummy record could be described as chunky.
I will admit that there is one place where the word “fat” does have positive connotations, e.g. “fat stacks of cash”—which is exactly what our 6’1, 225-lb outfielder is going to make some day if he keeps hitting at his current pace.
In the second half, the 22-year-old lefty is hitting .276 with 5 HRs and a palatable 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Most importantly, the “Mississauga Masher” has shown an ability to hit situationally—something few Padres have succeeded at this year.
Simple approach, great results
Take a look at this at-bat from last night’s game:
Facing a right-side-heavy shift, the rookie Naylor does exactly what a professional hitter should do—just a nice, simple game of “Pepper” the other way. Since July 5th, Naylor is hitting .326 in at-bats where the defense has the shift on him. He seems to stick with the old adage of ”When you put the ball in play, good things happen”.
Of course, putting the ball in play has long been Naylor’s modus operandi. The big boy from north of the border struck out just 30 times in 223 Triple-A at-bats this year, and holds a 1.70:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 1700+ minor league at-bats—pretty solid marks in today’s swing-happy culture.
So call Josh Naylor whatever you wish—fat, chunky, girthy, big-boned, body-swollen, a hefty lefty, rotund, portly, or plump.
Just make sure you also call him what he is: a hitter.