As of the writing of this article, Tyrone Taylor is currently in the top spot on the Brewers depth chart for right field. If you had only watched him prior to this past August, you might be questioning why that's the case. After all, his pre-All-Star-break slash line of .160/.180/.240 over 78 plate appearances left much to be desired.
After heading back to the lab, Taylor re-merged from his chrysalis as one of the hottest hitters in Milwaukee, posting an .881 OPS in August and and a .912 in September, an incredible way to end the year. He also found some success in the postseason, hitting a two-run home run in the first game of the Wild Card Series.
Outside of his late-summer offensive outburst, Taylor is also a plus defender in the outfield, partially thanks to his excellent arm strength. His competitive throws average 90.4 miles per hour, placing him in the 85th percentile. Although he played just 576 ⅓ innings as an outfielder, he managed to compile 4 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), landing him fourth among Brewers outfielders.
It would make sense that the front office's belief in Taylor's development and ability to fulfill the role as the team's starting right fielder was a primary driver behind refusing to exercise Mark Canha's team option. This decision was also in line with the team's tendency to keep payroll relatively low. With a $2-million buyout and Taylor's estimated salary of $1.7 million (per MLBTradeRumors), the team is hoping for roughly the same overall production with a savings of almost $8 million.
We only have 147 plate appearances of peak Tyrone Taylor performance to analyze in 2023, but since his rookie year of 2021, he has been consistently (albeit slightly) above league-average, recording a 108 OPS+ in 2021 and a 102 in 2022. Canha was, admittedly, slightly better in those two years, recording OPS+ figures of 111 and 122, but he's nowhere near as good defensively.
Assuming the Brewers don't acquire any free agent outfielders or call up any prospect talent, the last hurdle for Taylor to clear would be the arbitration process. If that goes smoothly and he continues the momentum he started in the second half of 2023, he could end up being the steal of the century.
Is there any case for non-tendering Taylor, rather than paying out a relatively small arbitration-scale salary? How much do you trust Taylor to stay healthy and be productive, going forward? We'll find out more Friday, at the deadline to tender players a contract for 2024. In the meantime, let's discuss.
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