Bob Elliott's Baseball: Mississauga's Noah Naylor ready to follow brother Josh in MLB draft
Catcher/3rd baseman a highly touted slugger; Jays have the 12th pick
On Feb. 22 of this year, San Diego Padres scout Murray Zuk walked into a Mississauga household.
Zuk, the longest-serving Canadian scout, walked out of the cold and into the warm home owned by Jenice and Chris Naylor.
"You know ... I think ... I think, I've been here before," deadpanned Zuk as he looked around.
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The Naylor family has been talking to the same scouts, crosscheckers and scouting directors who visited in 2015 to meet older brother Josh. He went in the first round of the MLB amateur draft to the Miami Marlins.
Three years later, the Naylor family is walking down the same road. This time, Zuk from Souris, Man. and a cadre of scouts have been visiting to ask Noah Naylor the same question they asked Josh: will he sign if drafted or go to school?
"This year I wouldn't say it is more relaxing, but it easier to prepare Noah," said Chris. Jenice said their family knows what to expect, while they are still trying to "maintain the excitement for Noah." The mother and father gathered at a Mississauga coffee shop last week to talk baseball and their sons.
Josh, 20, was the best high-school slugger three years ago, and 18-year-old Noah is considered one of the best high-school bats in this year's amateur draft of North American high schoolers and collegians. The draft begins Monday night with the first 78 selections televised on the MLB Network. Rounds 3-to-10 on Tuesday and rounds 11-to-40 on Wednesday will be conducted by conference call.
Various mock drafts by Baseball America, Perfect Game and MLB Pipeline have Noah going anywhere from 12th (Blue Jays), 16th (Rays), 18th (Royals), 25th (Diamondbacks), 29th (Indians), 32nd (Rays) and 37th (Orioles). Assigned slot money ranges from $4,200,900 US for the 12th pick at all the way to $1,923,500 for the 37th.
Canadian high school star Noah Naylor is on the 📈📈📈 in our latest BA 500<a href="https://t.co/P0AJtpfML4">https://t.co/P0AJtpfML4</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLBDraft?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLBDraft</a> <a href="https://t.co/YSHW3tOyyg">pic.twitter.com/YSHW3tOyyg</a>—@BaseballAmerica
Do non-baseball neighbours understand exactly who lives down the block?
"When Josh was drafted, a man down the street was so impressed," Jenice said. "He knew Josh played ball, but he said that he always thought that maybe he was going to go to school [on a scholarship.] Josh had moved furniture for the man. Noah too. Now the neighbour goes around asking new arrivals, 'So, do you know who lives on our street?'"
Seeing Josh, Noah and younger brother Myles playing catch or leaving the house with their ball gear was commonplace in the neighbourhood.
Only a few people comprehend the numbers of hours Josh and Noah spent indoors during the winter working out at the Ontario Blue Jays complex. Most have no idea how much travelling Josh and Noah did across Ontario, south of the border and with the Canadian junior national team to get to where they are.
Josh has been a support system for Noah as he prepared for various showcases — the same ones he attended — and worldly travels, while acting in a "fatherly role" to Myles, according to Jenice.
"Joshua always told Noah: 'Don't compare yourself to others,'" Jenice said.
Youngest brother Myles plays short, pitches and catches for the Ontario Blue Jays 13U team his dad Chris coaches.
"All three have the same intensity," Jenice said. "Myles is so proud of his big brother. And so proud Noah is following in Joshua's footsteps. Myles is always smiling, we call him 'Smiling Myles.'"
Both sons have a deep support system led by grandmothers Mitzi Naylor and Winsome Green.
Josh was born June 22, 1997 at 12:30 a.m. at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. He started swinging a bat at age 2 1/2 and hasn't stopped. Josh's uncle, Dan McWilliam, gave him his first glove and Josh would took it to bed with him.
Josh's favourite player was David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. Father and son would lie on the couch and watch Ortiz go deep.
We remember helping Andy Lawrence coach the Mississauga North Bengals in 2010; Lawrence was a former Montreal Expos and New York Mets farmhand. Each time the Bengals played the Tigers, Lawrence, then a New York Mets scout, predicted a great future for Josh Naylor.
Josh was selected 12th overall in North America by the Miami Marlins in 2015. He was given a $2.5 million US signing bonus, but was dealt to the San Diego Padres at the 2016 non-waiver deadline as part of a package. Now he is swinging a bat for the double-A San Antonio Missions in the Padres' farm system.
After he was drafted and before heading south, Josh took a number of Ontario Blue Jays coaches and employees to the La Castile steak house in Mississauga for lunch. Josh treated and gave out Michael Kors watches, each with a personal inscription, for those at the table: Sean Travers, Danny Bleiwas, Mike Steed, Kyle DeGrace, Milt Nikkel, Pat Visca, Brandon Dhue and strength coach Chris Walsh, now a trainer now in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Walsh still trains both brothers in the off-season.
'Let it fly'
Travers's watch reads, "Let it Fly," which was the team motto of the Ontario Blue Jays team that won the Mickey Mantle World Series in 2013.
In 48 games so far with double-A San Antonio he is hitting .321 with 11 doubles, a triple, nine homers and 41 RBIs with a .929 OPS.
At the 2014 MLB all-star weekend in Minneapolis, Josh lost in the final of Jr. Home Run Derby at Target Field, taking his hacks in front of the MLB all-stars and home run derby competitors like Jose Bautista, Justin Morneau, Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton.
Noah was born Feb. 21, 2000 at 11 a.m. inside Women's College Hospital in downtown Toronto. He, too, started swinging a bat at age 2 1/2, and like his older brother with his first glove, just had to sleep with it.
Noah would run across the room, slide head first and jump up and give the safe sign. (An aside: inside a downtown Montreal condo in 1981 we saw the son of Hall of Famer Tim Raines do the exact same thing.)
A long-time coach with Greg Hamilton's Canadian junior national team told us last year Noah might be the "most polite player" he has ever met.
Ontario Blue Jays coach Kyle DeGrace suggested years ago that, "Noah was more athletic than Josh and could go just as high in the draft."
Growing up with San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey as his favourite player, Noah plays catcher and third.
Like brother, like brother
Noah lost in the final of the 2017 Jr. Home Run Derby in Miami with his big brother on hand. Noah was there for the Futures Game, along with Calgary's Mike Soroka, now with the Atlanta Braves, and Port Hope's Cal Quantrill, now a San Antonio teammate of Josh's.
Carrying symmetry one step further, Noah homered 420 feet to right, in the same section Josh homered in a pre-draft workout in 2015.
The Ontario Blue Jays travel from one U.S. college campus to another in the spring and the fall. Since schools are only allowed to play one international game, after each the Jays players get back on the bus for two hours or whatever until the next stop. A few years ago Ontario Blue Jays coach Sean Travers decided to alter the trip so it would venture into Texas.
"Sean took Noah over to Texas A&M at College Station in 2016 and the coaches offered him a scholarship," Chris said.
So, if negotiations don't work out with whichever team drafts him, Noah has a soft place to land.
It is an easy question, yet also a difficult one to answer: What makes you proudest of your respective sons?
Jenice on Josh: "As for me, it was difficult to see him launch his career and undergo adversity. I am so proud that the social media has never affected him."
Chris on Josh: "There's no way I could do what he did. Going to Italy and Korea at age 15? He's managing his own life at age 20 and making decisions on his own."
Jenice on Noah: "The way Noah is so proud of his brother. We'll see Robbie Alomar talking to Noah at Tournament 12 and ask what Robbie had to say? Noah will answer, 'Oh, he was asking about Josh.' We'll ask what a scout had to say and Noah will say 'Oh he wanted to know what was new with Josh.' Noah loves talking about his brother — if someone brings him up in conversation. It's not like he is Josh's shadow."
Chris on Noah: "He went from a guy who didn't want to be the centre of attention to the point where when the microphone is placed in his face, he can handle it. He matured from boy to man."
And Monday night we find out what Noah Naylor's next option is.
Top 10 Canadians
(According to the CanadianBaseballNetwork.com)
- 1. C-3B Noah Naylor, Mississauga, Ont., Ontario Blue Jays/Canadian Junior National Team
- 2. OF Tristan Pompey, Mississauga, Ont., University of Kentucky
- 3. RHP RJ Freure, Burlington, Ont., University of Pittsburgh
- 4. RHP Nick Trogrlic-Iverson, Oakville, Ont., Central Arizona
- 5. RHP Eric Cerantola, Oakville, Ont., Great Lake Canadians/Canadian Jr National Team
- 6. RHP Michael Brettell, Fonthill, Ont., Central Michigan University
- 7. C Kole Cottam, Knoxville, Tenn., Univerrsity of Kentucky
- 8. OF Denzel Clarke, Pickering, Ont., Toronto Mets/Canadian Junior National Team
- 9. RHP Ben Abram, Georgetown, Ont., Ontario Terriers/Canadian Junior National Team
- 10. RHP Kyle Stubbins, Surrey, BC, Douglas College
Top signing bonuses for Canadians
- 2010 1 Pirates RHP Jameson Taillon, The Woodlands, Tx., The Woodlands HS $6.5M US
- 2016 1 Padres RHP Cal Quantrill Port Hope ON, Stanford University, $3,963,045M
- 2002 1 Orioles LHP Adam Loewen, Surrey, BC, Whalley Chiefs/Jr. National Team $3.2M
- 2015 1 Marlins 1B Josh Naylor, Mississauga, ON, Ontario Blue Jays/Jr. National Team $2.5M
- 2014 2 Mariners OF Gareth Morgan, North York, ON, Ontario Blue Jays/Jr. National Team $2M
- 2015 1 Braves RHP Michael Soroka, Calgary, AB, PBF Redbirds/Jr. National Team $1,974,700
- 2007 1 Mariners RHP Phillippe Aumont, Gatineau, QC, ABC/Jr. National Team $1.9M
- 2002 1 Rockies LHP Jeff Francis, North Delta, BC, University of British Columbia, $1.85M
- 2008 1 Brewers C Brett Lawrie Langley, BC, Langley Blaze/Jr. National Team, $1.7M
- 2001 28 Cardinals RHP Blake Hawksworth, North Vancouver, BC, Bellevue (WA) Community College $1,475,000