In a 24-hour time span, the Royals moved two pieces of its roster in two separate deals. The first one saw Kansas City trade outfielder Michael A. Taylor to the Minnesota Twins for minor league relievers Evan Sisk and Steven Cruz. Minnesota now adds another outfielder to its core, as Taylor is set to become insurance for one of the game’s best, but most injury-prone superstars in the game.
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A Look a Taylor
Originally drafted as an infielder by the Washington Nationals, Michael A. Taylor has turned into one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. The ex-Royal ranked among the best in the league in 2022 in sprint speed, arm strength, and Statcast’s Outs Above Average (OAA) stat. Just in the last two seasons, Taylor posted a +22 OAA grade in center with the Royals, including a +17 in his 2021 AL Gold Glove campaign. That figure, for its worth, tied for first in baseball in 2021 among outfielders alongside Rays outfielder Manuel Margot.
Defense and speed are Taylor’s two best traits. At the plate, Taylor has ranked as a below-average hitter. Last season, Taylor ranked in the bottom half of the league in K%, BB%, and Whiff%. Taylor’s strikeout problems are not has bad as in the past — the 31-year-old recorded a 23.9% K% rate last season, below-average but an improvement from 30.0+% rates that he posted in his first five seasons in the league.
The new Twin has recorded an OPS above league-average once (2021), but does possess average pop at the plate. Taylor hit 21 home runs between 2021-22, and possesses a career-high of 17 that was attained in 2017.
What it Means
The Twins already had a solid outfield in place, led by star center fielder Byron Buxton. Under normal circumstances, an addition like Taylor would look particularly odd given the presence of Buxton. The 29-year-old Buxton — who we rated as one of the best center fielders in league — possesses an impressive set of tools both at the dish and in the field. Injuries, however, have wrecked havoc on Buxton’s career.
The 2022 All-Star has been limited to just 153 games in the last two seasons, not enough to put together for a full season. Sure, the 29-year-old has been impressive with the Twins in that time; Buxton hit 49 home runs and 86 extra base hits over the last two seasons. But, Minnesota has not been able to truly take advantage of Buxton’s talents for an extended period of time.
The acquisition of Taylor brings in a defensively-sound center fielder that should fit in nicely with the Twins given Buxton’s injury history. This move offers the Twins not just insurance in center field, but also the ability to get Buxton’s bat in the lineup at the DH slot without sacrificing anything defensively. While doing that from time to time takes Buxton’s plus defensive ability out of center, it does offer a path to keep the 29-year-old healthy.