It has to be strange to be Chris Taylor. On any given day during the season he could be starting or slated to come off the bench, playing the infield or outfield, and be slotted at the top of the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup or near the bottom.
And yet, despite the uncertainty, he continues to be exactly what the Dodgers need — an unheralded jack-of-all-trades who isn’t afraid of big moments. Taylor’s breakout with the Dodgers came in 2017 when he hit .288/.354/.496 in 140 games with 21 home runs, accumulating 4.8 WAR.
For some perspective, that’s the same number of wins above replacement that Max Muncy produced in 2019 — all from someone who played every position and cost the team just about nothing (which, when you think about it isn’t all that different from Muncy).
The question heading into 2018 was whether or not the production of the previous season was repeatable. The answer: yes and no. In the two seasons since, Taylor hasn’t reached the heights of 2017 — but he has steadied out at a level that is more than acceptable.
In fact, in 2019 he improved every piece of his batting line from the year before and lowered his strikeout rate despite seeing nearly 200 fewer at-bats. As far as WAR goes, Taylor was the team’s seventh-most valuable hitter this past season — ahead of A.J. Pollock, Kiké Hernandez and others.
Two games pop to mind when you scroll through Taylor’s game log — each of which encapsulate what makes him so valuable. The first was a game in which he was starting at shortstop on June 19 against the San Francisco Giants and batting fifth.
In the first inning of a scoreless game, Taylor got the party started with a three-run home run, giving the Dodgers a lead they wouldn’t squander. Taylor would later add another homer and a double — finishing 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBI.
The second game was one in which Taylor came off the bench just four days later against the Colorado Rockies. Here, Taylor entered in the seventh inning of a game the Dodgers were trailing 2-0.
There were runners on second and third with just one out, with starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela just having been relieved by Chad Bettis.
Once again, Taylor went deep for a three-run shot, giving the Dodgers a lead and moving their win probability for the night from 15.7% (beginning of the inning) to 78.6% (immediately following the home run).
The Dodgers would go on to win the game on a three-run walk-off home run from Will Smith.
While the past can be clearly understood, the future remains a bit murky. With all the trade speculation, Taylor is someone who could hear his name mentioned. With the emergence of Gavin Lux, Taylor could be an odd-man out, with no real pathway to playing time at any position.
Of course, the Dodgers will always want positionally flexible players and so Taylor remains of immense value to the organization. If he’s still with the team come Opening Day, his role should expect to remain the same.
Taylor will sit behind Lux as the primary backup infielder, fill some holes in the outfield when needed and surely remain as steady as he has been.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events and more!