#MLBPlayers411 | Chris Taylor
Chris Taylor is the Dodgers' version of the unheralded player who far exceeds expectations that every great club needs to reach new heights.
The 26-year-old utility player wasn't even considered one of the top prospects on Triple-A Oklahoma City when he didn't make the Dodgers coming out of spring training.
But just four months later the Dodgers wouldn't be entertaining the possibility of breaking the single-season record of 116 victories in a regular season without the versatile performer who will be wearing the nickname “CT3” on his Players Weekend uniform.
Taylor was 2-for-3 with a pair of walks and his 17th home run in Los Angeles' win over the Padres on Saturday. The homer was his fifth in August.
Since the All-Star break, Taylor is batting .358 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs. He has 12 multi-hit games and his 1.113 OPS is best among major league left fielders during that span.
Still, on a club with stars like Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig, baseball fans around the sprawling Los Angeles vicinity haven't quite picked up on Taylor's burgeoning star power.
“Honestly I don't go out a whole lot,” he told Yahoo! Sports when one of its writers asked him if he was becoming a public figure. “I've been recognized a couple times. Once in a Buffalo Wild Wings.”
Taylor is listed on the Dodgers depth chart at every position except pitcher, catcher and first base and he's hit at every spot in their lineup, but he's played primarily in left field and batted leadoff since the club brought him up in mid-April.
That will likely change with the imminent return of Adrian Gonzalez, which would mean the club needs to find a position for NL Rookie of the Year front runner Cody Bellinger, but Taylor, whose 4.2 WAR this season is 10th among position players, has played so well and is so versatile that manager Dave Roberts doesn't foresee problems keeping him in the lineup most nights.
Taylor, who turns 27 later this month, grew up in Virginia Beach and starred at the University of Virginia before the Mariners selected him in the fifth round in 2012. He batted .287 with a .347 on-base average as a rookie with the Mariners in 2014, but he suffered a broken wrist in spring training in 2015.
On June 15, 2016, after batting .240 in 86 games over three seasons with the Mariners, he was traded to the Dodgers for right-handed pitcher Zach Lee. He batted .322 during his time split between his two Triple-A Pacific Coast League clubs (Tacoma and Oklahoma City) in 2016, but he had just 62 plate appearances over 34 games and batted .207 with the Dodgers.
In the off-season, he decided it was time to work on his swing, so he began working with Dodgers hitting consultant Robert Van Scoyoc in October in Arizona and later went to Van Scoyoc's hitting facility in Santa Clarita, where they continued to work on a leg kick, an adjustment in hand position and focused on driving the ball more.
Although Taylor was hot in spring training, he didn't crack the Opening Day roster. He used the opportunity to continue working on his new swing.
“You have to be 100 percent committed to make those swing changes,” Taylor told the Los Angeles Times last month. “I still tinker with it. I make little adjustments.
“I think that your swing — and I think most players will tell you this — is kind of always a work in progress. I don't think anybody ever has it figured out.”
This spring with Logan Forsythe battling injuries and Chase Utley starting slowly, Taylor got his opportunity to play regularly and hasn't looked back since. He batted .296 in April, .322 in May, .227 in June, .394 in July and, so far, .277 in August.
The rest of the country may not be noticing Taylor's play, but Roberts, his teammates and the Dodgers' hardcore fans recognize him as the club's catalyst.
“He's what we're about,” Roberts said in the middle of his sizzling hot performance in May. “Taking on a new position, moving around the order, sporadic playing time until recently, delivering big hits, quality at-bats, every time he steps in the box, that ‘compete' is contagious.”
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