Up next on our top 50 prospects list is a southpaw that had an interesting season, to say the least…
No. 34: Mitchell Burton Taylor
Born: May 11, 1992 in Spring, Texas
Bats: Left Throws: Left
High School: Spring (Spring, TX)
Acquired: Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 7th round (216th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed for $367,500 ($217,500 above slot) on August 5, 2010.
Jersey Number: 3 for the Bluefield Blue Jays
Pre-2011 Rank: 38
- Had committed to Houston prior to signing with the Blue Jays
- Was a 1st team all-district and 2nd team all-Houston selection in his senior year of high school
- Went to the same high school as Red Sox ace Josh Beckett
- Credited with carrying his team to and throughout the Texas 5-A playoffs, which improved his draft stockn
- When he signed his deal, it was the most above-slot deal to date for any 2010 draftee
Bluefield Blue Jays team ranking (among starters):
- 1st in strikeouts (61)
- T-1st in wins (4) and hit batters (4)
- 2nd in innings pitched (55.1), hits (50) and earned runs (26)
- T-2nd in home runs (5)
- T-3rd in losses (2)
- 4th in starts (8) and K/9 (9.9)
- 5th in walks (14), WHIP (1.16)
- 6th in ERA (4.23)
Extra Information and previous experience:
Considered by some as a steal in the 7th round of the 2010 draft, Mitchell Taylor signed late while negotiating his contract, one that wound up being worth more than double Major League Baseball’s recommended slot amount.
As a result, his professional debut was postponed until last year, where he put together an interesting season with Bluefield Blue Jays, to say the least.
While it’s easy to notice Taylor’s smaller 6-foot, 170-pound frame–he weighed merely 150 pounds just over one year ago–it’s hard not to notice his pitching ability.
The anchor of his high school squad, one reason that Taylor has found success up until this point of his career because of his ability to locate his fastball, a four-seam offering that sits between 90 and 93 miles per hour. He can throw a two-seam variation of it as well that usually registers a tick lower than his four-seamer, usually 90-91 mph. While he needs to work on repeating his delivery, his fastball can consistently find the strike zone when he does not overthrow and everything is mechanically sound.
Speaking of Taylor’s mechanics, they’re quite unique. As you can see in the video from the link above, he has an unusually-high leg kick and fully extends his right leg instead of bending it at the knee, following that with a loose, smooth throwing action. He’s deceptive on the mound and conceals the ball well, which works wonders for his three off-speed pitches.
Though his can throw sliders and changeups, Taylor’s out pitch is his hard-breaking curveball, which is considered to have plus potential and be his best pitch. At times, the left-hander struggles to locate his slider, something that can also be said about his loopy curveball. His changeup can be a respectable offering one day and completely different the next, so he’ll definitely be looking to be more consistent with his entire off-speed repertoire in 2012.
After struggling in his first two appearances with Bluefield in June, Taylor was utterly dominant for nearly the next six weeks. He went 2-0 with a sparkling 1.35 ERA in 26 2/3 July innings, racking up 25 strikeouts while limiting opposing hitters to a .198 average. Then, after being named the Appalachian League’s Pitcher of the Week on August 1, he did not allow a hit or issue a walk in five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.
While there was no denying Taylor’s ability before the season, it seemed his early season success went to his head.
“I threw two [no-hitters] in high school and just missed a third,” the 19-year-old told MiLB.com in an interview published on August 5, 2011. “I’ve hit my midseason stride. My mechanics are really sound, so I don’t have to do as much mentally.”
Ironically, some of what Taylor has to work on the most going forward is changing mentally.
He was electric in his first appearance following his five-inning no-hitter — two hits and nine strikeouts in four scoreless innings of relief. But after that, he surrendered 15 earned runs on 18 hits in 12 1/3 innings in his next three starts, including nine earned runs in two innings in his final outing of the season.
On paper, one could attribute Taylor’s ineffective final outings to fatigue, and be quick to point out that although he finished with a bloated 6.33 ERA in August, he struck out 27 batters while walking only two. There was, however, much more going on with him than the numbers indicated. He was able to get away with his inconsistency, which won’t be the case as he continues up the minor league ladder.
One night he’d attack hitters and get results early in the count, another he’d fall behind with two or three balls in counts because he couldn’t find the zone. Facing rookie ball hitters, though, he was able to make adjustments, escape jams and get away with his mistakes.
Naturally, Bluefield pitching coach Antonio Caceres wasn’t pleased with that kind of approach, and Taylor was reported as not being open to changing his mindset at all. Things must have escalated, because he was sent home due to disciplinary reasons after his final outing on August 25, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
After seeing Taylor in spring training last year, he quickly became one of my favorites. Despite his final moments of his first professional season, it could easily be considered a success, though he does have a lot to work on before the 2012 campaign. Fortunately for him, a large part of that is in his head and has nothing to do with baseball.
Expected 2012 team: Vancouver Canadians (Short-season A)
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: No. 3-4 starter
Taylor has shown that he’s ready for full-season ball and could very well open this season with Lansing. Given the way his season ended, though, the Blue Jays might opt to keep him back in extended spring training to make a small statement and make sure everything is the they want. If that’s the case, look for Taylor to start the year in Vancouver and finish in Lansing, once guys like Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez have departed.
Baseball America (among others) feels that Taylor will wind up in the bullpen down the road, though his mid-rotation ceiling says otherwise and the Jays will exhaust every opportunity to keep him a starter.
Taylor’s No. 34 ranking is still an improvement over when we ranked him 38th heading into the 2011 campaign. His increase on the list was somewhat tempered by his mental approach this past season and the possibility of winding up in the bullpen, but he has the ability to steadily move up in the years to come with the right adjustments.