The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the best teams in the league at finding hidden gems and maximizing their talents. One of the earliest examples of Andrew Friedman finding a diamond in the rough is former Seattle Mariners utility man Chris Taylor. The Dodgers traded failing pitching prospect Zach Lee for Taylor, and the results were incredible.
Whether it be his postseason heroics that won him a 2017 NLCS MVP award or his red-hot start to the 2021 season that earned him an All-Star nod, the return on investment for Chris Taylor was astonishing for the Dodgers.
This netted Taylor a pretty payday from the Dodgers after his contract expired in 2021. Taylor signed a four-year, $60 million contract, making him the fourth-highest-paid Dodger in 2023. The Taylor daydream has since come crashing down, making him the most overpaid player on the Dodgers.
Chris Taylor strikes out. A lot. He had the worst year of his career at the plate last season and struck out 35.2% of the time. This prompted Taylor to try and make some changes to his swing. They were not working at first in spring training, but it did look like Taylor was finally making some progress towards the end, as Jack Harris of the L.A. Times points out:
"Taylor tried to make mechanical changes to his swing this spring, when his strikeout problems persisted in Cactus League play, and believed he was turning a corner after a strong showing in last month’s Freeway Series."- Jack Harris
But they weren't starting to work. After a promising Freeway Series game that didn't actually matter, Taylor has returned to his old ways. CT3 is slashing .091/.162/.273 so far this season. He has struck out 15 times in 37 plate appearances, giving him a strikeout-rate of 40.5% — the worst in the league.
The Dodgers have a Chris Taylor problem.
The optimistic spin on Taylor is the fact that we are still in April and that the sample size is miniscule. However, those taking that approach will soon realize that the glass is a lot more emptier than they seem to realize.
This is not an isolated problem. It is hard to get past the fact that Taylor struck out five percent more than he got on base last season. It does not matter how you spin it — that is not a productive player at the plate.
These issues even stem back to his All-Star season in 2021. His red-hot first-half and game-winning home run in the NL Wild Card Game overshadow the fact that Taylor was pretty bad in the second half of 2021. Taylor's batting average dropped 54 points — from .277 to .223 — in the second half of the 2021 season; his OPS fell 125 points, and his strikeout rate rose from 25.7% to 33.1%.
So you mean to tell me that Taylor had a red-hot start to a season, cooled off immensely in the second half, struggled the following year and has started the next season off in a horrible manner? Doesn't that sound a lot like Cody Bellinger's 2019-2021 stretch? Bellinger even has the playoff heroics, as he slugged a massive home run in Game 7 of the 2019 NLCS.
Taylor might just be the next Bellinger. His ceiling was never quite as high, but his floor is looking like it can be much, much lower. Just like the team did with Bellinger, the Dodgers need to solve this problem.