Naylor's flight: Santo Domingo-Marlins Stadium-Pearson

By Bob Elliott

American Airlines flight 1026 departed Santo Domingo from the Dominican Republic at 8:40 AM on May 30.

The plane carrying the Canadian Junior National Team touched down at Miami International Airport at 11 AM.

American’s flight 1668 to Toronto’s Pearson International did not leave until 3:16 PM.

What’s a teenager like Mississauga’s Josh Naylor to do once he cleared customs?

(Customs agent: “Anything to declare?”
Naylor: “Ah, I hit five home runs in 12 games against pro pitching sir.”)

While the rest of the travelling party headed to eat, shop and people watch, Naylor went to Marlins Stadium for a private work out in front of the Marlins top evaluators.

And Naylor, the Mississauga first baseman, will head to Miami again after scouting director Stan Meek chose the Mississauga first baseman 12th over-all in North America in the first round of the annual draft of high schoolers and collegians Monday night.

Marlins top set of eyes, Craig Weissmann, new vice president of player personnel hired away from the Oakland A’s, was in Ottawa last month to see Naylor playing for the Ontario Blue Jays against the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians at Heritage Park.

Calgary right-hander Mike Soroka also went 16 picks later in the first round to the Atlanta Braves. And Indiana State lefty Jeff Degano of Surrey, B.C. was selected by the New York Yankees 57th over-all. The Blue Jays took right-hander Jon Harris of Missouri State 29th over-all.

Asked how he did at the private Marlins workout, Naylor said he really didn’t remember. 

Same when he was asked how many homers he hit.

But as he filled the right field seats with souvenirs the reaction of Marlins executives bordered on giddiness.

“On my goodness!”

“Holy cow, did you see that one?”

Naylor said last week he was going to watch the draft from his Mississauga home with his parents, Jenice and Chris, along with brothers Noah, 15 and Myles, 10.

When did Naylor, a slugger since his grade nine days and a David Ortiz fan, find out he was drafted?

“When I saw it on TV,” said Naylor where he was with his grandmothers Winsome and Mitzi as well as his aunt Jackie.

“I was watching, hoping for my name to be called,” said Naylor, the fifth highest Canadian ever drafted behind Jameson Taillon of The Woodlands, Tx., who went second over-all to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, Adam Loewen of Surrey, B.C., fourth to the Baltimore Orioles in 2002; Jeff Francis of North Delta, B.C. ninth to the Colorado Rockies from University of British Columbia in 2002 and Phillippe Aumont of Gatineau, Que. to the Seattle Mariners, 11th over-all in 2007.

MLB Network’s Hall of Famer Peter Gammons said a scout compared the swing of the highest Canadian position player ever drafted was similar to that of Matt Stairs, who will be inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame this weekend with his 265 career homers. Another comparison is to Prince Fielder of the Texas Rangers. 

Slot money for the 12th pick over-all is a $3,051,800 signing bonus, although some scouts said Monday that Naylor may have a deal for a $2.5 million signing bonus.

Baseball America ranked him 61st on its top 500 prospects, MLB.com Prospect Watch had him 59th and Perfect Game ranked him 65th.

One scout said he now has two reasons to dislike the Marlins because A) owner Jeffrey Loria moved the Expos out of Montreal and B) the Marlins drafted Naylor in the first round before the scout’s teams had its turn to take Naylor in the first round.

“If this basketball people would be have been writing about this young guy as often as the kid who went to Kansas (Andrew Wiggins). I know the sports and the farm systems are different, but this guy could be a first rounder and he’s basically been ignored by most newspapers and TVs from what I could tell,” said an American League executive.

Naylor sports a Mickey Mantle World Series championship ring from when the Ontario Blue Jays (which looks like World Series ring from the 1980s) when they won in McKinney, Tex. He hit .500 to win the batting title.

The first baseman has the rarest commodity in the draft: power. A scout pointed out what an inexact science the draft is before adding “Naylor could fail and still hit 25 homers at double-A, that’s how much power he has. He might lead his rookie-class league in homers this summer.”

Committed to Texas Tech University he always had eye opening power. From when he attended Danny Bleiwas and Sean Travers Ontario Blue Jays evaluation camp as a 12-year-old Mississuga North Tiger. He played for his pop with the Mississauga North Tigers and then was invited to an exhibition game after his grade nine season against the Canadian Junior National Team.

After the game Greg Hamilton asked him to join the Junior National Team.

And kudos to commissioner Rob Manfred for not murdering the pronunciation of Mississauga the way Philadelphia broadcasters did when former Mississauga North Tigers Shawn Hill and Chris Leroux made their major-league debuts, Hill was with the Montreal Expos in Philadelphia while Leroux was with the Marlins playing the Phillies as well. 

Now, Naylor’s likely off down the road to winning a ring with the Marlins.