By Nick Patterson The Herald
EVERETT — The book already had been written on Chris Taylor.
Good glove, won’t hit.
The scouting reports were near unanimous in their evaluation of the University of Virginia shortstop prior to baseball’s amateur draft in June. Taylor’s defense was good enough that he’d stick as a shortstop at the professional level. However, there were doubts about whether he’d be able to contribute anything with the bat.
Well, Taylor is determined to prove those reports wrong.
Taylor opened his professional account with the Everett AquaSox, and in his first month with the Sox he’s shown he’s more than just a glove man.
“We weren’t sure what to expect with the bat, but he’s been a pleasant surprise,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said. “He’s got a very good approach at the plate, he’s very well disciplined. He’s been on base all the time at the top of the lineup and he’s done a very nice job for us.”
Said Taylor: “I feel like I’ve gotten off to a pretty good start. I’ve swung the bat well early and I feel I’ve made some good plays in the field. It’s exciting, and hopefully I can keep getting better.”
Taylor’s been everything the Sox could have expected in the field. Drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Mariners, the 21-year-old from Virginia Beach, Virginia, has flashed great hands, good range and a solid arm during his time with Everett.
“No doubt,” Mummau responded when asked if Taylor’s defense came as advertised. “He’s made a number of difficult plays look easy.”
But the bonus has been what Taylor’s provided at the plate.
Taylor’s numbers this spring during his junior season at Virginia were modest. In 59 games, he batted .284 with five home runs and 47 RBI. His 35 walks gave him a .383 on-base percentage, and he also stole 12 bases in 14 attempts. Still, those numbers were slightly down from his sophomore season, when he batted .305, and they’re not the type of numbers that tend to translate to a major-league Silver Slugger award.
However, Taylor has had a major impact offensively with the Sox. Taylor has been an on-base machine, reaching base in 22 of Everett’s 25 games. Though his on-base percentage is down from the lofty .570 range it was at a week ago, he still ranks third in the Northwest League at .432. His table setting at the top of the lineup is a significant reason why Everett is atop the West Division at 18-7 and on the verge of clinching the first-half title and a playoff spot.
That was not something the scouting reports predicted.
“That’s what other people think, and you have to try and ignore those reports,” Taylor said. “I’ve always had confidence at the plate. My numbers in college were a little down this year and that’s probably where (the reports) came from. But my confidence is still there and I’m still determined to be just as good of a hitter as I am in the field.”
The biggest reason why Taylor has had such success at the plate is because of the way he works the count. He makes opposing pitchers work in a way rarely seen by an AquaSox player in recent years, looking at pitches and fouling them off until he’s deep into counts.
During one game against Vancouver in June, Taylor saw 24 pitches in his four at bats, reaching a full count three times. He reached base in three of those at-bats, walking twice and slugging a double.
“He’s very comfortable with two strikes, whether it’s 0-2 or 3-2,” Mummau said. “He’s a guy who runs pitch counts up for opposing pitchers and that’s very valuable at the top of the lineup.”
Said Taylor: “I think that’s what you want to try and do if you’re a one or two hitter in the lineup. You want to let the guys behind you see some pitches. But at the same time, there’s times you have to be aggressive and you might have to swing at the first pitch.
“It depends on how the game is going. If the guy’s throwing a lot of strikes you might want to work early. I think it’s just worked out that way, I’ve done a good job laying off the bad pitches and swinging at strikes.”
Taylor’s success with the Sox suggests the possibility of a promotion in the near future. High draft picks from college who succeed in Everett often find themselves on the plane to Clinton of the mid-Class A Midwest League, especially with the season’s midpoint just two weeks away.
“I hope he stays here all year for selfish reasons,” Mummau said with a laugh. “But if developmentally it’s in his best interests to get moved up and that’s what the guys up top want, then that’s what will happen.”
And if Taylor does get moved up, it won’t be just because of his glove.