Chris Taylor’s versatility continued to be extremely beneficial to the Dodgers, and thanks to improved offense he earned more and more playing time as 2020 progressed.
Taylor began the season in the mix in both left field and at second base, and filled in at shortstop when Corey Seager was hurt. He ended up starting the most games at shortstop (15), but had double-digit starts in left field (14) and at second base (11), and even started five times in center field. Total Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved had Taylor as an above-average defender at shortstop, second, and left, while Ultimate Zone Rating said he was above average at short and left. He was someone the Dodgers could count on no matter where he played.
At the plate he was even better, hitting .270/.366/.476, setting career highs in on-base percentage and wRC+ (131). Taylor’s walk rate (12.2 percent) was also a career high, well above his previous best (9.1 percent, in 2018). Taylor was third in the National League with 23 RBI in September.
The result was Taylor starting 49 of 60 regular season games, fifth on the team, plus 16 starts in 18 postseason games. The Dodgers in 2020 never went two games without Taylor starting at least once.
Taylor’s strikeout rate (25.7 percent) was his best since his 2017 breakout year, though it ballooned to 38 percent in the postseason, a big reason why he hit just .207/.270/.328. That included a stronger finish, with four extra-base hits in his final eight games in October, including a home run in Game 2 of the World Series. He also had one of the two hits against a dominant Blake Snell in Game 6 of the Fall Classic, which has to count for something.
Taylor’s World Series also included booting Brett Phillips’ single in right center field in the ninth inning of Game 4, setting off a chain of Dodgers misplays to allow the Rays an incredible win.
But just as that play didn’t define the Dodgers’ World Series, it didn’t dampen what was a stellar 2020 for Taylor, a fourth straight impressive year for the versatile regular.
Taylor has been above average offensively every year since 2017 (his lowest OPS+ is 108, and his lowest wRC+ is 107 during that time), all while getting regular time at four different positions in the infield and outfield. In the last four years, Taylor ranks 43rd among major league position players in bWAR (11.9), among Dodgers trailing only Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner.
Stats: .270/.366/.476, 131 wRC+, 8 HR, 10 doubles, 1.8 bWAR
Salary: $5.6 million
Game of the year
Chris Taylor on August 5 in San Diego had a fine day at the plate, scoring twice with a triple and single. But it was in left field where he made his mark, throwing out Trent Grisham at the plate, preventing what would have been the tying run for the Padres, but instead was the final out of the game.
This was probably the best defensive play of the regular season for the Dodgers, or at the very least the most impactful given the game situation.
“That feels just as good as a walk-off home run for Chris Taylor,” Orel Hershiser said on the SportsNet LA broadcast, “A walk-off assist.”
Taylor is signed for one more year, and will earn $7.8 million in 2021. With five years, 37 days of major league service time, Taylor will be a free agent after next season.