Mission possible: Josh Naylor helps lead Cleveland to the top of the AL Central Division

Josh Naylor emerged as one of the Texas League’s RBI leaders in the summer of 2018 with the San Antonio Missions. In this file video, he flared a run-scoring single to left field against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay

The San Antonio Missions’ alumni in major league baseball enjoyed quite a day on Sunday. Jackson Merrill homered for the San Diego Padres against the Washington Nationals. In Houston, Luis Urias made some nice plays at third base and had a clutch hit to tie the game late against the Houston Astros.

In the same game, big Andres Munoz came on to pick up the save in the Mariners’ 5-4 victory. But what jumped out to me this morning while watching the highlights was the power show by Josh Naylor, a mainstay for the American League Central Division-leading Cleveland Guardians.

Naylor hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning, a sizzling line drive into the right field seats that helped propel the Guardians to a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. At Cleveland, the left-side hitting Naylor increased his totals in home runs (to eight) and RBI (26) to rank among the leaders in the American League.

Naylor, from Mississauga, Ontario in Canada, was the 12th overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Miami Marlins. In 2016, he was traded to the Padres. By the next year, in 2017, he was in Double-A San Antonio. In 2018. Naylor became a fixture with the Missions with 17 home runs and 74 RBI.

The Padres traded him in 2020 to the the Guardians. Despite sustaining injuries in 2022 (dislocated ankle) and 2023 (oblique), he has bounced back to play 32 of 34 games for the Guardians, mostly at first base. He also has the unique chance to play on the same major league team with his younger brother, Bo Naylor, the Guardians’ catcher.

Another younger brother, Myles Naylor, was the 39th pick in the 2023 draft by the Oakland A’s. Myles Naylor is playing for the Stockton Ports in the Class A California League.

Periodically, I’ll take a look at how former Missions players are faring in the big leagues this summer. Josh Naylor, who hit line drives all over Wolff Stadium for a couple of years, is definitely one to keep an eye on.

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