Dodgers’ Chris Taylor and Royals’ Trevor Cahill Have Transformed Their Games
Chris Taylor, the former Mariners bench player, has taken it to a new level in 2017, especially as of late. He came into 2017 with a career slash line of .234/.289/.309, a wRC+ of 69. In 2017, he has had a .318/.387/.538, good for a 145 wRC+. In July, it is .444/.459/.736, a 215 wRC+. The biggest difference for Taylor has been his power. Coming into the year, he hit 1 home run in 318 plate appearances. In the same number of plate appearances in 2017, he has hit 12. He is displaying this power not only for the first time in the Majors, but for the first time in his professional career. His Isolated slugging percentage for this season is higher than it has been in any other year, Majors or Minors. You can read a very good write up of Taylor (as well as a couple other Dodgers) by Tony Blengino of Fangraphs, linked here. He posits that the current production will most likely not keep up, but that he should still be an average Major Leaguer going forward, which can often times be quite the valuable piece.
Mikie Mahtook is an outfielder for the Tigers who is still trying to get his feet wet in the Majors. After a great 2015 debut in which he slashed .295/.351/.619 for the Rays in 41 games, he had a terrible 2016, where he had a slash line of .195/.231/.292 in 65 games. After the 2016 season, he was traded to the Tigers, where he has found a happy middle ground and has posted a .294/.324/.471 line, which puts him at a tick above average. But he is really on the rise lately, as he has gone 13 for 30 in his last eight games, with five extra base hits and four walks. Mahtook has also recently taken over the everyday-centerfielder gig, so he should get plenty of playing time going forward.
Eddie Rosario has turned a corner this year that, in theory, sounds easy, but a lot of players struggle with; he got more disciplined at the plate. See, if you compare Rosario's numbers from last year, when he was mediocre, to this year, when he is a solidly-above-average regular, you see a lot of similarities. His BABIP is almost identical, his ISO is up a tick but not a crazy amount, but his strikeout rate and walk rate have both improved tremendously. He has dropped his K% from 25.7% to 20.2% and his walk rate moved from 3.4% to 5.5%. So, he is getting on base more often from walks, and he is putting the ball into play more often. These numbers might not sound like much, but sure enough, his OBP increased from .295 to .333. This simple change alone has taken Rosario from a solidly-below-average player to an above-average player. And the best part is it should all be sustainable.
Recently traded to the Royals, Cahill has had a sneaky good year. Among starters with at least 60 innings pitched, he ranks 19th in FIP, 14th in xFIP, 8th in K/9, and 25th in HR/9. Those numbers actually add up to a frontline starter, better than most teams number one guy. Based on FIP, he would be the best starting pitcher on 17 teams, including the Royals. And yet he is only owned in 28 percent of ESPN leagues and 63 percent of CBS leagues. I think the big reason people are scared to pick up Cahill is that they don't think this production will last. So here is why it will: he has pitched differently. He has stopped throwing his fastball so much in favor of his curve, which has been, by far, his best pitch this year. You always consider a change in performance a fluke if you can't find any reason, but this is a real reason. I can honestly say that I believe that this is the real Trevor Cahill.
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