The Dodgers would not have been as successful as they were in 2017 without some surprise breakout performances. One of the biggest surprises came in the form of Chris Taylor. Taylor had a career year in 2017, but, the Dodgers should be weary of a regression in 2018.
On June 19th during the 2016 season, the Dodgers and Mariners made a trade that was the exact opposite of a blockbuster deal. It was essentially a swap of two struggling players who were stuck behind organizational depth. That deal was Zach Lee for Chris Taylor. Lee a once highly touted prospect had no real place with the Dodgers, so they shipped to Seattle for Taylor who was in the same predicament with the Mariners.
Little did they know that this trade would be so lopsided. Taylor would make a very strong first impression with the Dodgers launching his first career home run, which happened to be a Grand Slam against the Diamondbacks. But after that, he wasn’t very productive.
After years of not being able to breakthrough and become an everyday player, Taylor revamped his swing heading into the 2017 season. Adding a different load and different swing path. It did not seem like Chris Taylor would even make his 2017 debut in Los Angeles until later in the season. But a flurry of injuries helped him get his foot in the door.
That is all CT3 needed. Just a small opening and Taylor burst right through that door and made it tougher and tougher for Dave Roberts to replace him in the lineup. A season-ending knee injury to Andrew Toles was what solidified his spot in the lineup for the remainder of the year.
Taylor hit an impressive .288 with an on-base percentage of .354. However, the most shocking number was the number of home runs he had in 2017. After hitting just one home run in his previous 120 games in the big leagues, Taylor mashed 21 home runs for the boys in blue during the 2017 season.
2017 was indeed a special year for Taylor as he was finally able to make his push into a lineup. He was a big part of the team’s success in 2017. He provided the Dodgers with something they haven’t had since Dee Gordon in 2014, a legitimate leadoff hitter. He helped set the table for the big bats in the lineup, and when needed he was the big bat.
With the type of season, Taylor had, his regression is almost inevitable. I’m not saying he is going to completely fall off a cliff, all I am saying is he will not be as phenomenal as he was during the 2017 season. Here are a few reasons why this will happen.
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Despite Taylor not technically being a rookie, 2017 was his first complete season and the first time teams were able to get a full scouting report on him. Before 2017 the most amount of games he had played in a season was 47. In 2017 alone he played more games than he had from 2014 to 2016.
Like most other rookies, after their first full season teams have more tape and a better scouting report on him which will lead to a “sophomore slump.” In some cases, this can cause players to have horrendous seasons but in the case of Taylor I just he will regress a bit from his remarkable season.
The second reason for his inevitable regression is just plain old luck, or rather the lack of luck. Taylor had a .361 BABIP. Which is Batting Average on Balls in Play. That number is extremely lucky. That just means that even balls that he misses hit were getting through the infield or dropping into holes at a high rate.
In fact, that was part of his own personal slogan. Every time he would get a hit he made a gesture towards the dugout in which he shook his hands. That meant “barrels are overrated.” Which was him saying that he didn’t need to square a ball up every at-bat to get a hit because he was getting those broken bat singles and little seeing-eye groundballs.
Not all of his hits were like this, of course. But he did have an abnormal amount of hits like that, which boosted his overall numbers because in the record books it doesn’t show whether it was crushed or a hit off the end of the bat all it shows is it was a hit.
I believe wholeheartedly that the Dodgers found a gem in Chris Taylor. But after his first real season and an abnormal amount of luck, it looks like Taylor will regress from that spectacular 2017 season. That does not mean he will not be productive it just means he will not be the same player he was last season.
Taylor will still be the table setter that the Dodgers need. He will continue to have tough at-bats and be a grinder offensively and defensively. CT3 and his revamped swing will be better than his days in Seattle but it just won’t be as good as his first complete season with the Dodgers and that is okay.