Chris Taylor has fallen from the Dodgers’ beloved late-breakout inspiration to become a flawed utility man who may be stealing AB’s from leading rookie Alex Verdugo.
Taylor, through 24 games, has 7 more plate appearances than Verdugo. On its face, this may seem reasonable. Taylor is a veteran of this Dodger team, playing an integral role in the team’s breakout in 2017 and maintaining some of his breakthroughs in 2018. He should not be displaced without thorough investigation and without very capable replacements.
Those replacements exist though.
As proven by the positional battle this spring, Kiké Hernandez is the best second baseman on the Dodgers, and he has made it clear so far this season. The newest everyday starter has already cracked 5 homers, good for a tie for third on the team, to go along with a .275 batting average, well over his career mark of .244.
Besides second base, Taylor has also been making starts in the outfield, even though both Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo are outhitting him by a wide margin. Pederson has blasted 10 homers and seems to be on his way to a career resurgence, while the rookie Verdugo has 8 extra-base hits and is hitting .333.
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Based on the numbers, it’s hard to believe Taylor is really stealing at-bats from the red-hot Joc, so the extra ABs are coming at the expense of Verdugo. The former standout leadoff man is hitting just .191 this season and is barely more than a pinch hitter or defensive replacement at this point.
Despite their disparate performances to this point in the season, the 28-year old utility man continues to receive more play time than the 23-year old cream of the crop rookie. This should not be the case, and there really is no excuse as to why the switch hasn’t happened yet.
But there is. Taylor is not really stealing playing time from Verdugo. He is taking it wherever he can get it. The speedy Taylor has started in the outfield only five times this season to Verdugo’s 12. Plus the trend of Verdugo playing over Taylor has increased with each passing game.
Over the last 10 games, Verdugo has gotten seven outfield starts, while Taylor has received just two. So don’t worry Dodger fans, Dugie’s burst onto the scene will continue, unabated by Taylor, as long as he continues to put up solid numbers.