Blue Jays’ Samad Taylor: Speed, Defence, Plate Discipline and Fly Balls

 

JFtC breaks down a successful season for Blue Jays prospect, Samad Taylor

 

Credit: DaveMe Images

 

Back in March, I wrote about Samad Taylor‘s 2017 performance with the Vancouver Canadians. The gist of my post was that Taylor had impressed at the Short Season-A level in his age-18 season. He was an above-average hitter (128 wRC+) at a level that was made almost entirely of players older than him—only 3% of batters at the level were in their age-18 season last year. Moreover, Taylor’s performance stood out among past 18 year olds at the level—of the 97 batters with 100+ PA at the level in their age-18 season since 2006, only 12 produced a superior wRC+.

 

It was a promising start at the A-level, but one that would need to be built upon as he advanced upwards. With his 2018 regular season at Low-A Lansing nearly done, we can see some clear signs of a successful season of development.

 

As a prospect whose best tool is their speed (FanGraphs gives him a 60 grade), it’s good to see evidence that he’s used that tool to the fullest this season. With Lansing, Taylor has stolen 44 bases from 60 attempts. That is good for a 2.0 wSB (weighted stolen base runs above average) that ranks him 18th out of 263 batters with 250+ PA. In terms of speed score, Taylor ranks 13th (8.0 Spd).

 

Defensively, FanGraphs gives Taylor a 55 FV grade for his fielding and a 45 FV grade for his arm. His solid defence is evident in his fielding metrics this season—in terms of Clay Davenport’s fielding runs above average, Taylor has been a +7, tied for second among 2B in the Midwest League.

 

At the plate, Taylor has made meaningful improvements in his plate discipline. While his 2017 strikeout rate (20.2%) was a little better-than-average, his 4.8% walk rate was downright poor, resulting in a well below-average walk-to-strikeout ratio (0.24 BB/K). Underlying these marks was a worse-than-average whiff rate (12.8%).

 

This season has been a very different story. His walk rate is an excellent 11.1%, which ranks in the 84th percentile among all Low-A batters (min. 250 PA). His strikeout rate, which was fine last season, fell even further (18.5%, 73rd percentile). The result has been an improved walk-to-strikeout ratio (0.60 BB/K) that ranks among the level’s best (90th percentile). A likely factor in these gains is a whiff rate that has improved from poor to better-than-average (10.8%, 62nd percentile).

 

Another strength of Taylor’s has been accumulating extra base-hits, with his .157 ISO ranking in the 72nd percentile at his level. Given that he’s a speedster, it’s unsurprising that most of those extra bases have come from doubles and triples—he has hit a double or a triple in 7.6% of his plate appearances this season (97th percentile). Nevertheless, the guy has some homer-power—he has hit a dinger in 1.6% of his PA (44th percentile).

 

Given his much better-than-average walk, strikeout and extra base rates, it might be surprising to know that he has only managed to produce a 104 wRC+ (52nd percentile). The culprit? His .275 BABIP (10th percentile). Last season, over about half as many plate appearances, Taylor produced a strong .347 BABIP.

 

There is good reason to view his much lower 2018 BABIP as either the result of bad luck—BABIP is the most volatile of the four core stats—or poor performance—514 is a lot of plate appearances. While my gut is leaning towards bad luck—due to a combination of his previously excellent BABIP, the fact that 514 PA is still not a large enough sample size to expect a reliable BABIP and optimism—this will be something worth keeping an eye on in 2019.

 

Shifting back to positive news, there’s a lot to like about his batted ball profile. First and foremost, he hits very few grounders, with his 36.1% GB rate putting him in the 13th percentile for his level. While a large share of his batted balls are liners—his 20.8% LD rate ranks in the 65th percentile—his main batted ball strength is effective elevation—35.3% of his batted balls are outfield flies (89th percentile), thanks to a higher-than-average FB rate (43.1%, 79th percentile) and a lower-than-average pop-up rate (18.1%, 33rd percentile).

 

All told, there have been 409 batters to crack 250 PA at Low-A in their age-19 season since 2006. In terms of walk rate (87th percentile), strikeout rate (66th percentile) and isolated power (77th percentile), Samad Taylor compares very favourably with his peers. The only area in which he lags behind is BABIP—he ranks in the 12th percentile among this group of age-19 batters—which has limited his overall production at the plate—his wRC+ ranks in the 58th percentile.

 

In spite of these BABIP issues, which may or may not just be the result of bad luck, Taylor has looked very good in 2018.  He has responded to a promotion by improving his walk, strikeout and whiff rates, strong signs of a developing hitter. He’s also hit boatloads of doubles and triples, hit his fair share of dingers, stolen a lot of bases and played very solid defence at the cornerstone. If his 2017 season showed signs of promise, his performance this season has showed signs of that promise developing.

 

 

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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I’m an economics professor in the GTA whose lifelong love for the Jays was reignited by that magical August of 2015 and the amazing moments since.

Jeff Quattrociocchi

I'm an economics professor in the GTA whose lifelong love for the Jays was reignited by that magical August of 2015 and the amazing moments since.