Sunday Notes: Seattle Pitching Prospect Troy Taylor Impressed Scouts in Arizona

Troy Taylor is an under-the-radar pitcher to keep your eye on in the Seattle Mariners system. A 22-year-old right-hander who was taken in the 12th round of the 2022 draft out of the University of California Irvine, Taylor impressed evaluators in the Arizona Fall League with a two-pitch mix that has him well-positioned for a future role as a big-league reliever.

“I’m a big fan of what he can do athletically, as a mover,” said a scout I spoke to. “His stuff is good. He’s a guy who probably ends up in the bullpen with the Mariners, and sooner rather than later.”

He’s already come a long way. Taylor was an infielder at Rancho Cucamonga’s Los Osos High School, and when he did occasionally take the mound — “I closed a couple of times” — all he really did was throw as hard he could. It wasn’t until he got to Cyprus Junior College, and then to UC-Irvine, that he “actually started learning how to pitch.”

Taylor has understandably learned a lot more about the nuances of his craft since signing with Seattle, but he nonetheless remains anything but a technician. Topping out at 98 mph and typically averaging “five and some change,” he still tries to throw his heater as hard as he can. He identifies as a power pitcher.

Adding a third pitch is a goal — the Mariners have him working on a changeup to use against left-handed hitters — but his fastball-slider combination will always be his bread and butter. The former is not only his best pitch, it has unique characteristics.

“I have a lot of run on my fastball,” explained Taylor. “I throw with four seams, but it comes out with about 16-to-20 inches of run. Technically it tags as a sinker, but I throw a four-seam fastball. I think the run comes from my lower arm slot. I don’t try to make it run, it just comes from my natural slot.”

His complementary offering grades out as solid-plus and is modeled after the one thrown by a young Mariners reliever who logged a 34.7% strikeout rate last year.

“We’ve been trying to shoot for sweep on my slider,” Taylor told me. “The goal is 85 [mph] with low teens of sweep in the zone. That’s the biggest part of it, throwing it hard and in the zone. They teach us the Matt Brash spiked slider, so I’m throwing that one.”

Taylor had a 31.0% strikeout rate to go with a 3.38 ERA over 45-and-a-third innings this past season between Low-A Modesto and High-A Everett.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Charles Johnson went 6 for 8 against Wayne Gomes.

John Roseboro went 10 for 23 against Catfish Hunter.

Earl Battey went 11 for 23 against Paul Foytack.

Roy Campanella went 15 for 32 against Hoyt Wilhelm.

Elston Howard went 25 for 65 against Juan Pizarro.

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HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS HOWARD-HOMER BONUS

Ryan Howard went 6 for 9 with five home runs vs Braden Looper.

Frank Howard went 5 for 6 with four home runs vs Larry Sherry.

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Another pitcher who impressed in the Arizona Fall League has been flying every bit as far below the radar as the aforementioned Troy Taylor.

“The pitching here — especially the starting pitching — hasn’t been all that great in recent years,” a scout told me. ‘But there are some arms that make you go, ‘OK, that guy is probably going to be in the big leagues.’ One of them is Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa. “That look at the all-star game was like, ‘Whoa, that fastball has got serious life. He turned me on.”

A 23-year-old right-hander whom the Texas Rangers took in the 30th round of the 2019 draft, Hoopii-Tuionetoa retired all three batters he faced in the Fall Stars Game, two via strikeout. All told, the Wailuku, Hawaii native made nine appearances in the AFL, logging 10 strikeouts and allowing just four hits over nine-and-two-thirds innings His regular-season numbers, which came primarily at the two A-Ball levels, included a 2.96 ERA and a 25.0% strikeout rate.

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A random obscure former player snapshot:

Hack Miller finished his brief big-league career with a .444/.500/.788 slash line. On April 23, 1944, in the first of his 11 career plate appearances, the right-handed-hitting backstop bashed an eighth-inning, three-run homer to give the Detroit Tigers a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Indians. On July 5 of the following year, Miller went 3-for-4 in what would be final MLB game as the Tigers topped the Boston Red Sox 9-8. Detroit went on to win the 1945 World Series in seven games over the Chicago Cubs.

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A quiz:

Four players logged more than 1,700 hits in the 1990s. Craig Biggio and Tony Gwynn were two. Who were the others? (a hint: they were teammates for one season, but not in that decade.)

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Gift Ngoepe has been hired to manage the Diamondbacks’ Arizona Complex League affiliate. The 33-year-old native of Pietersburg, South Africa played in 28 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017 and in 13 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018.

The Seattle Mariners have hired Danny Farquhar to the position Major League Pitching Strategist/Assistant Pitching Coach. The 36-year-old former big-league reliever, who suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm while pitching for the Chicago White Sox in 2018, discussed his transition from player to coach in my November 21, 2021 Sunday Notes column.

Mike McCarthy will be serving as the pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett Stripers, this coming season. The 36-year-old erstwhile minor-league hurler was the Oakland A’s bullpen coach last season.

Bud Harrelson, a switch-hitting shortstop who played for the New York Mets from 1965-1977 before finishing his career with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers, died on Thursday at age 79. Known primarily for his defense, Harrelson slashed .236/.327/.288 with an 80 wRC+ and 19.1 WAR.

Billy Gardner, an infielder who played for five teams from 1954-1963 and later managed the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals, died earlier this week at age 96. The Waterford, Connecticut native was part of two World Series championship teams, the 1954 New York Giants and the 1961 New York Yankees.

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The answer to the quiz is Mark Grace and Rafael Palmeiro, who played together with the Chicago Cubs in 1988.

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A few days ago I ran a Twitter poll — this with a caveat that numbers aren’t everything — asking if Pie Traynor should be in the Hall of Fame. Inducted in 1948, the longtime Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman finished with 2,416 hits, 58 home runs, a 107 wRC+, and 37.9 WAR over a career that spanned the 1920-1937 seasons.

The poll results were anything but favorable. Only 37.6% of the people who voted feel that Traynor belongs, while 62.4% are of the opinion that he doesn’t. Count me among the minority. Putting his career and the evolution of the game into context, the Framingham, Massachusetts native is a clear-cut Cooperstown-worthy selection.

Do Traynor’s numbers pale in comparison to those of other Hall of Fame third basemen, not to mention a number of notables who are on the outside looking in (hello Sal Bando, Buddy Bell, Ken Boyer, and Graig Nettles)? Without a doubt. But again, context is needed. During his time, and for roughly two decades to follow, Traynor was considered by many to be the best third baseman in baseball history. Much for that reason, in 1948 he became the first at that position to be voted into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA (Jimmy Collins, who played from 1895-1908, was elected via the Veterans Committee in 1945).

Traynor’s B-Ref bio page informs that he “was generally considered the best the sport produced from 1876-1950,” while his excellent SABR Bio Project biography, penned by James Forr, echoes those words with “people once called Traynor the best third baseman in history.”

Again, Traynor’s numbers — certainly by modern standards — don’t back up his inclusion. That said, his reputation and fame within the context of his career very much do. That should definitely matter.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Lachlan Wells fanned 14 batters while allowing just two hits over six innings for the Australian Baseball League’s Adelaide Giants in a 4-0 win over the Sydney Blue Sox on Thursday. The 26-year-old left-hander, who is 6-0 with a 0.63 ERA on the season, signed a minor-league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies last weekend.

Quincy Latimore is slashing .307/.389/.425 and has gone deep twice in 144 plate appearances with Adelaide. The 34-year-old outfielder has played in 2,000 professional games, including 1,118 stateside in affiliate ball, and has 1,900 hits.

Matt Davidson has signed with the KBO’s NC Dinos. The 32-year-old former MLB infielder spent last season with NPB’s Hiroshima Carp.

NPB’s Yokohama DeNA BayStars have signed Anthony Kay. The 28-year-old left-hander pitched for both the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets last season.

Miller Hogan has a 1.10 ERA to go with 30 strikeouts and just two walks in 32-and-two-thirds innings for the Puerto Rican Winter League’s Gigantes de Carolina. The 27-year-old right-hander pitched in the Tampa Bay Rays organization from 2018-2022 before spending 2023 with the independent American Association’s Kansas City Monarchs.

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Left on the cutting-room floor from my Victor Scott II interview that ran here at FanGraphs on Tuesday was what he told me about a favorite hobby. Not his burgeoning rap career — that was the interview subject — but rather his experience with a sport whose all-time greats include Earl Anthony and Pete Weber. The 22-year-old St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect is a kegler.

“I’ve worked at a bowling alley since I was around 14 or 15,” explained Scott, who grew up in Atlanta. “My dad was a security guard at Midtown Bowl, and his hours were 12am to 3am every Saturday night. He’d say, ‘Hey, if you want to make a little bit of lunch money, come with me.’ While I was there, I would do some bowling.”

Scott started getting more serious about the sport last offseason. Not only did he purchase two bowling balls — “a strike one and a spare one” — as well as his own shoes and bag, he began educating himself on “the oil patterns and the boards, kind of becoming a scientist in the bowling game.”

The speedy fly-chaser hadn’t yet bowled a 300 at the time we spoke, although he had scored as high as 250. His recent scores included a 215 and a 211, so by his own admission he’s no Mookie Betts.

“I think Mookie is like 250 to 270 consistently, so I’m not at his level,” said Scott. “At least not yet, Maybe someday.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy wrote about Australia native Luisa Gauci, whom the Milwaukee Brewers have hired as a hitting coach for their Arizona Complex League affiliate.

Miranda Remaklus of Redbird Rants wonders why the St. Louis Cardinals miscommunicate injury issues with the fanbase.

The Score’s Travis Sawchik looked back at Chicago’s Comiskey Park and the retro building boom.

The KBO will be instituting several rule changes in the upcoming season, one of which is robot umpires. Jee-ho Yoo has the story at Yonhap News Agency.

Gene Baker became the first Black manager for an affiliated minor league team when he took the reins of the New York-Penn League’s Batavia Pirates on June 19, 1961. Ben Blumenu wrote about it for SABR’s Game Project.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Jackie Robinson slashed .349/.468/.462 with 40 stolen bases for the Montreal Royals in his lone minor league season.

Satchel Paige went 11-4 with a 1.86 ERA over 111 innings for the Triple-A International League’s Miami Marlins in 1956. He did so in his age-50 season.

Dan Uggla’s 190 home runs from 2006-2011 were the most from a second baseman over that six-year span. His 425 walks were also the most at his position.

Luis Arraez is 16 for 27 with two home runs and three walks in 30 plate appearances at Nationals Park.

David Wright had 6,872 PAs, 1,777 hits, 2.945 total bases, and 51.2 WAR.
Manny Machado has 6,874 PAs, 1,737 hits, 3,045 total bases, and 50.2 WAR.

Nellie Fox received 74.7% of the vote in his 15th and final year of BBWAA Hall of Fame eligibility. Twelve years later, in 1997, the longtime Chicago White Sox second baseman was voted in by the Veteran’s Committee.

On today’s date in 1963, the Baltimore Orioles acquired Luis Aparicio and Al Smith from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Hoyt Wilhelm, Pete Ward, Ron Hansen, and Dave Nicholson. Aparicio won a pair of Gold Gloves, swiped 166 bases, and won a World Series in his five seasons as an Oriole. Wilhelm had 41 wins, 99 saves, and a 1.92 ERA in his six seasons on the South Side.

Edwin Jackson was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Tampa Bay Rays on today’s date in 2006. The right-hander, whom the Dodgers had drafted in June 2001, subsequently changed organizations 17 more times via trade or free agency before pitching his last big-league game in 2019.

Players born on today’s date include Terry Forster, a left-handed pitcher who logged 54 wins and 127 saves while appearing in 614 games for five different teams from 1971-1986. One of the best hitting pitchers in history, Forster slashed .397/.413/.474 over 86 plate appearances. He went 1-for-1 on 19 different occasions.

Also born on today’s date was Smead Jolley, a prolific hitter who is considered to have been one of the worst defensive players in baseball history. The hulking slugger slashed .305/.343/.478 over 1,815 big-league plate appearances with the Chicago White Sox and the Boston Red Sox from 1930-1933, while his numbers in the Pacific Coast League were that of legend. In the four-year span that preceded his time in the American League, Jolley batted a cumulative .385 with 138 home runs for the San Francisco Seals. After washing out of MLB due to his defensive ineptitude, he returned to the PCL and batted .366 with 52 home runs for the Hollywood Stars over the next two seasons.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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tz
3 months ago

That Wright/Machado comp is crazy close. If Machado stays healthy and makes the HOF that would be a great reminder of what might have been with Wright.