BY ALEX VIGDERMAN
While on a rehab assignment for another injury this past weekend, Byron Buxton fouled a ball off his toe and suffered a hairline fracture, sidelining him again in what is quickly shaping up to be a lost season.
We all love keeping track of the trials and tribulations of Buxton as a tantalizing former uber-prospect, but with him on the shelf a little longer, I still want to feel that same thwarted lust for a five-tool superstar. Fortunately, I just realized that Michael A. Taylor and Buxton are basically the same player with a few years difference in age.
Both have been up-and-down between Triple-A and the majors over the course of their relatively short careers thanks to their plate discipline limitations. Buxton was a top overall prospect without much competition in center field, so he saw playing time earlier in his career, while Taylor has needed injuries and the departure of Jayson Werth to find more opportunities.
Here are Buxton’s and Taylor’s stat lines since the start of last season.
Maybe Taylor strikes out a little more but has a little more consistent pop. But on the whole these are fairly similar low-contact moderate-power hitters.
Of course, Buxton brings elite tools to the table outside of his bat. Since the start of 2017, Buxton has been the best in the major leagues as a defensive center fielder (24 runs saved) and as a baserunner (good for a +63 Net Gain, described in the Bill James Handbook).
Taylor doesn’t have that elite level of performance over a larger sample, but he’s doing his darnedest this year to get to Buxton’s level. Through the first month of the season, he leads the major leagues in Net Gain on the bases (+15) and is second in DRS among center fielders (6, one run behind Delino DeShields). Buxton won a Gold Glove last season. Taylor’s teammates have talked him up as being a capable candidate.
Like Buxton, Taylor got off to a slow start this season, but he’s been healthy and had the opportunity to make up for it. He’s hitting .289/.396/.600 in his last 14 games
We’re still in Small Sample Size Mode in 2018, so caveats abound, but it will be exciting to see if Taylor keeps this up and, even at age 27, brings a little bit of new blood to the ultra-toolsy center fielder discussion.