Some teams around Major League Baseball make more liberal use of the expanded roster rules in September than others. Under the David Stearns regime, the Milwaukee Brewers have typically been one of the clubs willing to call up as many reinforcements as possible. Currently, every healthy member of the Milwaukee 40-man roster is active with the big league club except for prospect Trey Supak. So naturally, this year’s group of additions includes outfielder Tyrone Taylor, who was called up to the big leagues for the first time in his career last week. He might not get a ton of playing time down the stretch with Milwaukee this season, but given the state of the org’s outfield depth going forward, he is someone who could become a key reserve in the next couple of seasons. So what can we expect from the 25 year old?
Taylor is athletically built at an even 6 feet tall and 185 lbs, a former running back and safety for his high school football team. His retooled right-handed swing starts out of a stance with a stiffer back leg that bares most of his weight, while he’s lighter on his front foot, tapping his toe on the ground as the pitcher gets set and into his windup. That leads Taylor into a notable leg kick that serves as his timing mechanism. Taylor’s hands are held high around his ears with a slight bat waggle before he drops down and pulls his elbow in to load up before swinging.
A second round pick by the Brewers out of high school back in 2012, Taylor was once a heralded prospect within the organization. He was ranked as Milwaukee’s #1 prospect by Baseball America following the 2014 season as well as the #93 prospect in all of baseball. His ascension stalled after that, though, as he struggled to adjust to the Double-A level of competition in 2015-16 before enduring a hamstring issue that limited him to only 32 total games in 2017. He plummeted down prospect lists until he was no longer even considered among the top-30 minor leaguers in Milwaukee’s system and was left unprotected — and passed over — in the Rule 5 Draft. But as he was working his way back from injuries, Taylor was also making changes in his offensive approach, buying into the “fly ball revolution” and beginning to lift the ball into the air with more regularity.
Fully healthy for the 2018 season, Milwaukee’s developmental staff decided to challenge Taylor with his first-ever assignment to the Triple-A level. And in what could have been his final season with the franchise before reaching minor league free agency, Taylor broke out in a big way at the highest level of the minors. He appeared regularly at all three outfield positions for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, racking up the most starts in center field, while batting .278/.321/.504 for a 110 wRC+. His new approach helped him launch 20 home runs after never previously hitting more than nine in a full season. He also stole 13 bases in 17 attempts while displaying terrific bat control within the strike zone (15.4% K rate), convincing the Brewers to purchase his contract and add him to the 40-man roster rather than allow him to reach the open market.
Taylor returned to Triple-A to start 2019, this time with the new affiliate in San Antonio. But he got off to a slow start with the Missions and missed nearly a month worth of action between late May and late June. His year ended with a .269/.334/.461 slash line along with 14 homers in 375 total plate appearances at Triple-A, but his stat line was notably improved after he returned to San Antonio from his injury rehab on June 25th. From that date through the end of the season, Taylor accrued 204 plate appearances and hit .264/.369/.480 (107 wRC+). He swatted eight of his home runs during that 48 game sample. Taylor slashed his strikeout rate (28.7% pre-injury, 17.6% after return) and improved his walk rate (6.4% pre-injury, 8.3% after return), getting both numbers to align more closely with his career averages once he came back to active duty. By the end of 2019, Taylor resembled every bit of the player that he was during his 2018 breakout season.
Taylor has gone to the plate four times so far with Milwaukee, reaching base in his first ever trip thanks to a hit by pitch. He recorded his first (and so far his only) career hit on September 8th, a pinch-hit RBI single off Duane Underwood of the Cubs in the sixth inning of an 8-5 victory. Scouts praise Taylor for his overall feel for the game, and he’s graded with a 50 hit tool by both Fangraphs and MLB Pipeline, with the latter citing “solid hitting ability thanks to a combination of bat speed and advanced bat-to-ball skills.” His career strikeout rate more than 3,200 minor league plate appearances is less than 14%. Both scouting services grade his power as below-average, but that assessment that is perhaps ready to be re-evaluated after strong back-to-back home run years and the juiced baseball landscape in MLB and Triple-A.
Taylor is an above-average runner, but his speed now tends to serve him better as an outfielder on defense than it does on the basepaths. He is no longer as aggressive with steal attempts as he was when he was younger, but leg injuries tend to have that affect on a player. After previously swiping as many as 22 bags in a single season and successfully nabbing 13 bases in 17 attempts last year, Taylor only took off five times all season in 2019. He wasn’t caught stealing at all this year, at least.
Center field has been Taylor’s most regular defensive position since becoming a professional, but he’s split time pretty evenly across all three spots over the past couple of years in Triple-A. Tyrone’s arm strength grades out only as average, so he’s generally better suited for center and left field than he is for right. His excellent accuracy helps mitigate the lack of “oomph” on his throws, though, and he has recorded 26 outfield assists in Triple-A since the start of 2018. Taylor’s speed gives him good range that plays well in all three outfield spots, and his defensive instincts help him move relatively seamlessly from position to position as needed.
Taylor’s overall profile fits right along with what a team typically hopes to see out of their ideal fourth outfielder — a contact-oriented approach with burgeoning power and the ability to capably play all three outfield positions. Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain aren’t getting any younger, and for as amazing as Christian Yelich is, he has dealt with recurring back issues since arriving in Milwaukee in 2018. There should be plenty of chances for Tyrone Taylor to earn playing time at the big league level over the next few seasons (he has two more option years remaining after 2019), and as things stand right now, he figures to enter next Spring Training looking to compete with Trent Grisham and Ben Gamel for a bench spot with the Cream City Nine in 2020.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference