Dodgers: Chris Taylor’s Value Goes Beyond His Bat
By Sunit Bhakta
Chris Taylor is looking to build off a breakout 2017 season in which he surprised everyone, including the Dodgers, with the bat. But that might not even be his most valuable asset.
Chris Taylor established himself as a legitimate offensive threat for the Dodgers last season, which is what people will identify him the most with now. That is what hitting .288/.354/.496 with 21 home runs, 34 doubles, and 17 stolen bases in 140 games (125 starts), along with an NLCS MVP will do for you. However, he did slow down towards the end of the season, but regression was expected.
His .361 BABIP from a year ago strongly suggests regression, but keep in mind the consistent good contact he was making grouped with his increase in line drives and a decrease in ground balls. That is a good combination. However, some kind of regression is inevitable, but I believe that he will still be good for a line around .275/.345/.485 with 15-20 home runs, 25-30 doubles, and 15-20 stolen bases, respectively.
But his true value may actually come on the other side of the game, defense. I’m not discounting his offense but how many people can play the multitude of defensive positions as he can? He played in five different spots (shortstop, third base, second base, left field, and center field) in 2017, ultimately settling into center field.
Defensive versatility is one of the more valuable aspects of today’s game, and if you can play five positions you will have a great chance at a roster spot on that alone. If you can hit you’re almost guaranteed a spot, but if you can combine that with playing five positions average-or-better, it is virtually priceless. And that is Chris Taylor.
Friedman and Co. love guys like Taylor, Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes, Kyle Farmer, and Cody Bellinger who can play multiple spots over the diamond and in the outfield. This ability of theirs usually goes underappreciated by many. But in Chris Taylor’s case, it goes even beyond that, and it starts with Corey Seager.
Yes, that seems odd, but keep in mind that the young shortstop dealt with elbow discomfort towards the end of 2017 and the Dodgers opted to not have surgery on it. So that alone may have been risky, and we will have to see what happens.
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If something were to, unfortunately, happen to the elbow, Chris Taylor might be the guy to step in and hold down the fort. Enrique Hernandez will also be an option, but he is not an everyday player, let alone an everyday shortstop. He is best used off the bench and all over the field, not just one specific position.
Chris Taylor, though, is an established starter who would be the team’s best option to take over for Seager. He is a natural shortstop who isn’t great on defense there but can hold his own and can hit.
Throw in depth the Dodgers have depth in the outfield, and you can afford to move him. He is the insurance policy for a potential disaster like this.
He allows for you not to have to delve into your pool of minor league talent to go and get an external replacement in case of emergency. You could play the position by platoon but it is always a plus if you have good consistent offense coming from short.
Injuries are a little easier to deal with when you have guys that can play wherever you need them to, but your value will astronomically shoot up when you are a good insurance policy to the team’s best player.
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But let’s hope it does not come to that point and both Seager and Taylor will be playing in their respective positions all year long.