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Chris Taylor Has Been Great, But Expect Him to Regress

This article is not intended to take anything away from Chris Taylor. He made a great adjustment by improving his launch angle to turn into a productive hitter. To become an above-average hitter at age 27 after being basically a AAAA/bench type of player is quite amazing and not many can do that.

However, I read a lot of articles treating him like a star, and objectively, he is this season, since a 126 wRC+ and 4.7 WAR from a middle infielder is amazing.

Yet there are some concerns with him. He has some pop and now hits the ball at a solid angle, but his K/BB is not great. his K percentage was 25% this year. That is not super high and he might even be able to shave off another percent or two, but don’t expect a big jump here at his age. His BB percentage was 8.8%, which is OK, but not great for a relatively high-K guy. Overall, his K-BB% is definitely below average (16.2% for him vs 13.1% league average).

So to become an average or better hitter, he needs above-average power. He did improve his game power by improving his launch angle; however, 20 HR is basically just above average in these days, and his exit velo also is just about average (87.0 for him vs 87.3 league average). So there is raw power but it is somewhat limited. Now with the modern ball, you don’t need great raw power to hit it out, as Murphy or Altuve show, but since his LA is already about optimized at around 12 degrees (maybe 1-2 degrees can be added but then it would eat into BABIP), there isn’t much room for growth. I think around 25 should be his ceiling. Now 25 is great for a middle infielder, and Murphy and Altuve became elite hitters by raising their HRs to the mid 20s, but those two guys have a much better K-BB than Taylor — both are around 4%, vs the mentioned 16% for Taylor. Taylor simply needs his 25 HR to even become an average hitter while Murphy and Altuve are basically average hitters with “no” power (say 8 HR or so) and anything above that is positive.

Using my K-BB-ISO stat, Taylor’s -0.05 was about average. What made him elite was mostly his .361 BABIP. Now BABIP is not all luck and he does have a relatively low pop-up rate, and he also pulled just 38% of the time, meaning he is not super susceptible to the shift, but still his 87 MPH exit velo and 32% hard-hit rate are not marks of super great batted-ball quality (about average). He did have a 22% LD rate which is above average, but not amazing either.

Now, he is not slow, so I would maybe give him a .310 BABIP, but even then he will drop off quite a bit.

The xwOBA stat supports that, as his was .331 (around league average) vs. his actual wOBA of .368.

My projection for him next year would be around a 105 wRC+ and maybe a .265 average. Again, that is amazing for a middle infielder who basically was a bench player a year ago, and he should be worth at least like 3 WAR or so, but I would not overpay for him in fantasy. He did improve a lot, but he is no Turner/Murphy/Altuve because he doesn’t have their contact ability.