After starting out the season in Triple-A, who’d have thought that Chris Taylor would have had so much success for the Dodgers, to the point that he can legitimately be considered another building block.
Not sure if you have heard, but Chris Taylor is on an absolute tear right now. He has nine multi-hit games in his last 11 contests and (as of July 26th) is batting .523 (23-44) with five doubles, three triples, and two home runs since the Dodgers returned from the All-Star Break.
His season numbers now sit at a robust .321/.388/.545 with 12 long balls, 23 doubles, 47 RBI, 12 stolen bases, and a phenomenal 147 wRC+ in 83 games. On the team, he ranks fifth in home runs, fourth in RBI, third in hits, WAR (according to FanGraphs), and OPS (for qualified hitters) and second in doubles. The counting stats are impressive when you realize that he came up on April 19th, so who knows how much higher they’d be.
They’re even more impressive when you realize that he was a .234 hitter coming into the season, albeit across only 243 at-bats. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how much of a robbery the Zach Lee-Chris Taylor swap is looking like.
His big hits, Cinderella story breakout, willingness to play and bat wherever, and hustle all epitomize the kind of team the Dodgers are and the remarkable season they are having. And it has turned him into one of the fan-favorites.
You can easily say that he is a flash in the pan and his luck will run out soon. Well, one answer is that we’ve played over half a season, so the sample size is plenty large enough. He’s not slowing down but instead accelerating. And I will admit, I wasn’t sure how long his magic would last, but he keeps proving me wrong.
During May he’d struggle for two or three games, and his average would drop, making you wonder if the magic was gone and the real Chris Taylor was showing himself. But whenever this happened, he’d fight back and have a string of good games. This happened numerous times during the month.
But he finally hit a slump in June and saw his average drop to .273, which is a solid average without context. However, he hit .227 that month, and you couldn’t help but think that this is the real Chris Taylor. But he responded in the best way possible, by hitting .447 so far this month. He has raised his batting average by almost 50 points in just under a month, and it’s this streak which really has me impressed and sold on CT3 100%.
He has a good line-drive rate (27%), hits the ball all over the field, and is making hard contact. He has a groundball rate that is higher than you’d like it to be but when you combine that with his elite speed, that makes for a lot of infield hits and puts pressure on the infield defense to make plays. All this leads me to believe that he will sustain his success.
All this can be linked back to the swing change he made during the offseason. If he can maintain his current swing, there’s no reason for him to stop hitting the ball like he is at the moment.
During broadcasts, Joe Davis has retold the story of how third base coach Chris Woodward, who was familiar with Taylor from their days back in Seattle, told the front office he believed Taylor was just a swing change away from coming into his own so a move for him would be smart. And boy was he right.
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He has been one of the key reasons why LA has the best record in baseball this year. He’s played five different positions on defense and has hit out of every slot in the lineup. Earlier I wrote on how CT3 should be the Dodgers’ leadoff man, and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s at his best when hitting leadoff, demonstrated by his 1.292 OPS. He walks a lot more (13.5%), sees his strikeout rate drop, and provides that explosive speed leadoff men should possess.
And at 26 (27 next month) he should be around for a while. The Dodgers have shortstop, first base, center field, and third base locked up for the foreseeable future. Depending on how the Dodgers approach Yasiel Puig and Yasmani Grandal, they can have all but second base and left field locked up for years. What a coincidence that those are two of Taylor’s positions.
However, if Alex Verdugo isn’t traded, he will be up next year in either left or center field (which would either push Joc to a corner spot or out of LA). Then there’s this year’s first round pick Jeren Kendall, who is already with Low-A Great Lakes and figures to be in the outfield picture in just a couple of years. And don’t forget about Andrew Toles either. There is bound to be a logjam in the outfield so second base is probably where Taylor is destined to end up.
It will hide his so-so arm, and his quickness would translate. He did make some mistakes at second earlier this year, but if his transition to left field has proven anything, it’s that he has potential with the glove.
The beauty of him breaking out and getting entrenched at second base is that a top prospect like Willie Calhoun, who was pegged as the second baseman of the future, can become expendable and used in a trade for an ace like Yu Darvish (he should). His loss won’t hurt as much now that the Dodgers already have someone there. Plus, if we were going to be ok with Calhoun’s subpar defense, sticking with Taylor’s should not be a problem.
His .426 BABIP suggests he’s due for some regression, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the 26-year-old can become a consistent .290-.300 hitter with 15-20 home runs, 35-40 doubles, 20-25 stolen bases, and solid defense each season. And as he gets more and more comfortable with his swing, he will only improve, and these numbers will become reasonable.
If he does attain this type of production, then he’d become another franchise building block in the present and future while adding to an already impressive youthful core.
Chris Taylor has been the true Cinderella story for the Dodgers this year. From Triple-A to important piece and undoubted fan-favorite on a World Series team, what a ride. Thank you very much, Seattle.