Chris Taylor narrowly missed making the Dodgers’ opening day roster in 2017 as a utility man on the bench, but he ended up an indispensable part of a club that reached its first World Series in 29 years.
What went right
Despite missing out on the opening day roster due to his relative inexperience in the outfield — his entire professional career from 2012-16 saw him exclusively play in the infield — Taylor ended up starting 47 games in center field and 46 games in left field for the Dodgers in 2017, with his speed rating him average to above average at both positions, plus his infield work.
After hitting 23 home runs in the majors and minors combined in his first five professional seasons, Taylor exploded for 21 home runs in the majors in 2017, and led the Dodgers with 34 doubles.
It was the result of a swing overhaul that made Taylor the subject of national attention during the Dodgers’ postseason run, with the usually quiet and unassuming Taylor having some fun with the tedium of repeated queries.
“I think I get it in every interview: What’s the difference in the success this year? And every time I’ve talked about my swing change. So stop asking that question, please,” Taylor said, laughing, during the NLCS.
Taylor’s 15 home runs while batting first were tied for the fourth-most out of the leadoff position in Dodgers franchise history.
With the bases loaded in 2017, Taylor was a ridiculous 6-for-10 with three grand slams and four walks, driving in 20 runs in his 14 plate appearances.
Taylor led the Dodgers with 17 stolen bases as well, and joined Yasiel Puig as the first Dodgers with at least 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases in a season since Matt Kemp went 39-40 in 2011.
He hit .254/.380/.508 with eight extra-base hits in 15 postseason games, scoring 12 runs and walking 11 times. Taylor was 6-for-19 (.316) with two home runs, a triple, a double and five walks in five games against the Cubs, sharing NLCS MVP honors with Justin Turner.
What went wrong
Taylor hit just .237/.298/.414 at Dodger Stadium in 2017.
He struggled down the stretch, hitting .218/.259/.356 in September, which included a stretch of 55 plate appearances without a walk. Though on the season Taylor walked 50 times, one of six Dodgers to walk at least 50 times.
Stats: .288/.354/.496, 21 HR, 17 SB, 4.8 rWAR, 4.7 fWAR
Salary: unknown, likely somewhere near $540,000-550,000, pro-rated for his time in the majors.
Game of the year
In perhaps the Dodgers’ wildest comeback of the season, Taylor keyed a rally from down 8-2 in the eighth inning. He doubled and scored in the eighth, then hit the go-ahead grand slam to cap a five-run ninth in the Dodgers’ 10-8 win over the Brewers on June 3 in Milwaukee. Taylor was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and a walk in the victory.
Taylor has two years, 31 days of service time and won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2018 season. He has one option year remaining.