Jul. 4—If Samad Taylor’s increased offensive production hasn’t been the No. 1 surprise of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats season thus far, it’s certainly near the top of the list.
Through the team’s first 48 games Taylor was on pace to have a career year in several major offensive categories. He entered the weekend ranked first in the Double-A Northeast in runs scored (44), tied for third in home runs (12), fourth in OPS (.984), tied for fifth in hits (53) and eighth in batting average (.310). He also had a league-high 17 stolen bases in 21 attempts.
It’s not often you see a player rank near the top in both home runs and stolen bases this far into a season. Taylor hit a total of 23 home runs in his four previous professional seasons (1,099 at-bats), and hadn’t hit more than nine home runs in any one season. His batting average is more impressive when you consider that he had one hit in his first five games this year.
“I’m not going to say a drastic change, but I made a big change in my approach in the (batter’s) box I would say about a little over a month and a half ago,” Taylor explained. “Thanks to (Fisher Cats) hitting coach Matt Hague, we’ve made a couple changes and it’s put me in a better position to do what I’m doing now. It took probably about two games to start seeing results.
“Really just trying to do too much (in the past),” Taylor added. “Not sticking with the plan. This season I’ve been real good with sticking to my approach — staying with my approach the whole at-bat. In previous years, I was kind of all over the place, so that plays a big role in it.”
Taylor began the season hitting in the bottom half of the batting order, but moved into the leadoff spot in early June. He’s moved around defensively as well. The Fisher Cats have used him at second base, third base, center field and left field. He was labeled a second baseman when he turned pro.
“I would just say I’m a float-around guy now,” Taylor said. “I’ve accepted it. I don’t look at it as a bad thing. I’m not irritated about it, or frustrated. I’m glad that it happened because it keeps me in the lineup.”
Although he played some outfield when he was young, Taylor was primarily a shortstop as a senior at Corona (Calif.) High School. The move to the outfield may have been made, at least in part, because the Blue Jays have an abundance of top prospects who play the middle infield positions. That group includes current Fisher Cats Austin Martin and Jordan Groshans.
The Cleveland Indians selected Taylor in the 10th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He committed to the University of Arizona, but spurned that scholarship offer and opted to turn professional. The Blue Jays acquired Taylor and pitcher Thomas Pannone in exchange for pitcher Joe Smith at the 2017 trade deadline.
Taylor batted .216 in 108 games with Class A Dunedin in 2019, then, when the 2020 minor league season was canceled, the Blue Jays sent Taylor to Australia to play for the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League. He batted .244 with two home runs, 15 RBIs and had a .700 OPS in 105 plate appearances. Nothing that would suggest he was about to have the breakout season at the plate that he’s experienced so far this year.
He said he spent a lot of time last year studying Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
“I would say there’s some things all three of us do alike, so I watched those two guys a lot and tried to take things that they do and implement them in my game,” he said. “So far, the stuff that I’ve taken from those particular two guys has worked. Just sitting back and thinking about the game and why they do certain things helped me tremendously.
“I’ll be honest, the whole COVID sit-out year was probably the greatest thing that could have happened to me. It gave me time to flush everything out of my mind. Gave me time to sit back and dissect the game.
“I’ve had high expectations my whole career. I struggled the past two years and now I’m living up to the expectations I have for myself. I’m feeling pretty good in the box, so I’m just trying not to do too much and the results are coming.”