Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AL CentralAmerican LeagueAnalysisKansas City RoyalsMLB

Why Michael Taylor is an Intriguing Signing for the Royals

On the final day of November, the Kansas City Royals have signed Michael A. Taylor to a one-year deal. According to Tim Brown, a national writer for Yahoo Sports, the contract is for $1.75 million (plus $1 million in incentives). Last night, they signed Mike Minor.

I can almost guarantee you the promise this deal holds is being overlooked by countless baseball fans. In fact, I nearly was guilty of shrugging off the signing as one strictly for depth purposes (maybe it is).

Michael Taylor rightfully has a reputation of being a great defender.

There were only eight outfielders that posted an OAA (outs above average) of at least nine in 2017 and 2018: Ender Inciarte, Lorenzo Cain, Adam Engel, Billy Hamilton, Manuel Margot, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Michael Taylor. By DRS (defensive run saved), Taylor was 25 defensive runs above average during that two year span. The only outfielders that topped that were JaCoby Jones, Adam Duvall, Brett Gardner, Kevin Kiermaier, and Mookie Betts.

In 2019, Taylor hardly played in the majors, appearing in only 53 games and stepping up to the plate just 97 times. This past season, he actually had more plate appearances (99) than he did the year prior.

The reason he hasn’t played much can be attributed to his offensive (in)abilities. For his career, Taylor has a 75 wRC+. In other words, he has a hit at a level twenty-five percent below league average. The only season in which Taylor was an above average hitter was 2017, when he hit at a level four percent above league average (104 wRC+). His career on-base percentage is below .300, and he doesn’t walk much (6.8 career BB%). Taylor also strikes out frequently (31.4 career K%), though he did manage to strike out less less than 30% of the time for the first time in his career in 2020.

Based on all that information, one would likely infer that Taylor’s future role, if he were to make the team (he will), would presumably be that of a defense-first fourth outfielder.

What ultimately makes the Michael Taylor signing an interesting one is the fact that my predictive stats paint a much prettier picture in regards to his offensive potential.

His predictive weighted on-base average in 2020 was .331, a number that greatly exceeds his (actual) weighted on-base average (.283). The main reason for this encouraging disparity is that Taylor’s predictive weighted on-base average on contact (.425) was so much better than his (actual) non-bunt weighted on-base average on contact (.352). pwOBAcon is formulated based off of a player’s average exit velocity, barrels%, sprint speed, and non-bunt wOBAcon (all of which are divided by league average and multiplied by 100 to adjust for differences between seasons).

Of the 352 batters to put the ball in play at least 50 times, only seventeen of them had a higher barrels divided by batted ball events percentage than Taylor did.

331 players stepped up to the plate at least 90 times in 2020. Only four of them had a barrels/non-bunt batted ball events greater than 0.15 and a sprint speed greater than 28 ft/s: Ronald Acuña Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Teoscar Hernández, and Michael Taylor.

Additionally, Michael Taylor posted a league average exit velocity this past season (89 mph). If we are going off of pwOBAcon, which is more predictive of future wOBAcon than xwOBAcon and wOBAcon are, we would predict Taylor to be far more successful when he puts the ball in play in 2021 than he was in 2020.

His predictive walk percentage was slightly higher than his actual one (6.9% compared to 6.1%), but the huge difference in pwOBAcon and wOBAcon is what makes predictive on-base average (pwOBA) so bullish on Michael Taylor’s future at the plate. To be clear, pwOBA is not suggesting that Taylor is a great hitter; what it is saying is that one would predict Taylor to record a wOBA three percent above league average next season, a huge improvement upon his wOBA in 2020, which was about twelve percent lower than league average.

Although one has to be careful with small samples in an already shortened season, this low-risk — cheap and short-term — Cyber Monday signing has the potential to turn into one of the best value deals of the offseason.