Chris Taylor proved to be one of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ most important contributors in 2021, which made him a must-sign player once free agency came around this winter.
With the loss of Kiké Hernandez to the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers needed Taylor to take over as their primary utility player in 2021 while also seeing more time at second base.
The 31-year-old started the season hot, batting .250/.375/.500 in April with a 136 wRC+ but in May he stepped his game up even more as he hit .310/.426/.476 with a 150 wRC+.
On the final day of May, Taylor had one of his biggest moments of the season, and arguably one of the best of his career.
With the bases loaded and the game tied in the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, Taylor battled reliever Génesis Cabrera to a 3-2 count. He continued to foul off pitches off and on the 14th pitch, drove the ball into right-center field for a double that cleared the bases.
Taylor wasn’t able to carry that momentum into the next month as he went into his first slump. During June, he hit just .227/.330/.375 with a 97 wRC+.
Although Taylor wasn’t at his best, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expressed confidence in him by calling him a one-of-a-kind All-Star caliber player.
“The reason I went on record about a week ago in saying that in 2021 he’s an absolute All-Star, is because no one in baseball can do what he does,” Roberts said at the time. “That’s the versatility and ability to hit left and right. And also play above-average defense all over the diamond. So I think that in itself makes him an All-Star player.
“When you try to bucket him as a center fielder, second baseman, shortstop or left fielder, you’re actually doing him a disservice. The All-Stars are to showcase the best players in each league for that particular year, and he is one of the best players in the National League, hands down. It’s a pretty easy sell.”
Taylor backed up Roberts’ statement in July as he had one of the best stretches of his career. The utilityman hit .333/.369/.619 with a 163 wRC+ and seven home runs in the month.
He also earned his first trip to the All-Star Game after being selected as a reserve for the National League team.
“It’s awesome. I’m extremely humbled,” Taylor said of the selection.
“I’m excited to go there and play alongside so many great players. It’s a dream come true. I’m really looking forward to playing in front of my family. I’m just going to try to soak it all in and enjoy it.”
After July, Taylor struggled through the rest of the season, likely due to a nagging neck injury he continued to play through.
In the second half of the season, he hit just .223/.290/.419 with a 90 wRC+. But once Taylor got to the postseason, he was fully healthy and got back to performing as one of the Dodgers best players.
In the NL Wild Card Game, Taylor became the hero as he continued to have huge moments against the Cardinals with a walk-off home run to send the Dodgers to the NL Division Series.
In the NL Championship Series, Taylor had a historic night with three home runs and six RBI. He became the first player in MLB history to have a three-homer game when facing elimination.
Taylor finished the postseason hitting .351/.419/1.203 in 11 of the Dodgers’ 12 games.
“C.T.’s been amazing. All year he’s just been a grinder, man. He just is a baller,” Mookie Betts said during the NLCS. “It doesn’t matter how he’s feeling, he’s going to go and play no matter if he’s hurt, anything. So C.T.’s obviously someone that is kind of like an unsung hero.
“Everybody needs a C.T. on their team.”
Taylor’s 2021 highlight
Taylor’s highlights of the season were both of his key performances in the postseason.
His three-homer game was also only the 12th in MLB history.
Among the other players to accomplish this feat include Hernandez and Albert Pujols, along with Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson. “It’s cool. I hadn’t really thought about that,” Taylor said of joining a list that includes some of the best hitters in MLB history.
“It’s definitely a surreal feeling for me. I never thought I was going to hit three homers in a game, let alone a postseason game. It just still hasn’t really sunk in.”
Prior to the MLB lockout, Taylor agreed to re-sign with the Dodgers on a four-year, $60 million contract that includes a $12 million team option for 2026.
If Gavin Lux wins the starting job at second, a platoon between the two is also a possibility. They could also do a hybrid type starting role where whoever isn’t starting at second base that day is their utility player for the day.
No matter where Taylor plays, he should continue to be on the field nearly every game.
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