ARLINGTON -- Tyler Naquin didn't get off to a hot start at Texas A&M like his teammate Michael Wacha did.While Wacha went 9-2 with a 2.90 ERA in his first year as an Aggie, earning Freshman All-American honors, Naquin, an outfielder, hit .244 with two home runs and 19 RBIs in 58 games as a freshman in 2010. "I knew that I could play at the Division I level," Naquin said. "I even told my coach [Rob Childress], 'Hey, I'm going to be the Big 12 Player of the Year next year.'" That's exactly what Naquin did. In 2011, he led the nation with 104 hits and batted a team-high .381 with 44 RBIs, 68 runs scored, 23 doubles, and seven outfield assists. Along with the conference player of the year accolades, Naquin was named a first-team All-American. "Awards and accolades will come if you just work hard and not worry about them," Naquin said.
Following two seasons that saw him steal a combined 12 bases, Naquin then set his mind on wreaking havoc on the basepaths. As a junior this season, Naquin has stolen 21 bases and been caught stealing only five times. He also leads the Aggies with a .384 batting average, 46 RBIs, 53 runs scored and a .541 slugging percentage."It's a lot like hitting a double, except you're hitting a single and stealing a base," Naquin said.
The Rangers have taken 24 players from the state of Texas in the Draft over the last six years, two in the first round. That's where Wacha and Naquin, the top two Texas prospects among college players, according to MLB.com, are projected to go this year. Both are listed in MLB.com's first-round mock draft, with Wacha going to the Athletics at No. 11 and Naquin off the board at No. 30 to the Yankees.The Rangers' first pick in this year's Draft is at No. 29, where they could consider Wacha or Naquin should they fall that far. They will make two other picks on the first day of the Draft as Texas also holds the No. 39 and No. 52 picks. The Rangers work hard to scout Texas and make sure they don't miss any in-state prospects. "We don't want to get beat in our own backyard," general manager Jon Daniels said. Wacha, who came to College Station from Texarkana, Texas, grew up going to Rangers games -- his family occasionally made the two-hour drive to the Ballpark in Arlington. As a junior, Wacha is 8-1 with a 2.21 ERA with 107 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 106 innings over 16 starts. He has served as the team's ace this season and has won 26 games over his three-year career. "Growing up in Texas and going to games down in Arlington has always been a great time -- seeing them play and always wanting to be a Texas Ranger," Wacha said. "That'd be awesome to work your way up and pitch in Arlington, having family here to be able to watch." Naquin has been impressed with what he's seen from his teammate on the mound. "He's a fun, outgoing guy off the mound, but whenever he steps on the mound, he's a killer," Naquin said. "Whenever you have a 95-, 96-mph fastball with a changeup you can pull the string on, it's pretty deadly." Naquin, meanwhile, has been a force of his own at the plate. He leads the Aggies, who are preparing to face Dayton in the NCAA Regionals this week, in nearly every offensive category. A native of Spring, Texas, near Houston, Naquin grew up rooting for the Astros. But he said he wouldn't mind playing for the two-time defending American League-champion Rangers, especially since it would mean still playing for an organization in the Lone Star State. "It'd be a great opportunity to move up somewhere in that lineup and produce and help the Rangers get to another World Series later on down the road," Naquin said. "I had the blessing of having at least five to 10 family members at every A&M game. So being able to stay in Texas, I'm sure they'd all get in the car and get to those ballgames."
Christian Corona is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.