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2022 Dodgers in review: Chris Taylor

Los Angeles Dodgers v. San Diego Padres Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Chris Taylor’s sixth full season with the Dodgers was his most trying, with injuries curtailing his trademark versatility. The final result was a below-average season offensively for Taylor for the first time since 2016.

After signing a four-year, $60-million free agent contract to return to Los Angeles, Taylor’s first two months featured the usual production we’ve come to expect from the veteran. Through the end of May, Taylor was hitting .253/.337/.449 with a 119 wRC+. That was a relief considering he had offseason elbow surgery, and his .196 isolated power (which is slugging percentage minus batting average) matched his totals from the previous five years.

The main limit of the elbow surgery was that Taylor only played in the outfield for the first three-plus months of the season. Manager Dave Roberts on multiple occasions cited the potential strain on Taylor’s elbow that could come from switching arm angles on throws from the outfield and infield. It was quite a change for someone who started at six positions in 2021 and over the previous five seasons started between 81 and 147 games at each of shortstop, second base, center field, and left field.

But in June, Taylor slumped to the tune of a .648 OPS, and in the first week of July suffered a broken foot that knocked him out for a month.

Once Taylor returned in early August, he was cleared to do his usual roaming between the infield and outfield, and he started 18 games at second base in addition to his outfield duties down the stretch.

But he just stopped hitting. After returning from the injured list, Taylor hit just .193/.278/.313 with a 72 wRC+ in 44 games.

Strikeouts have always been a part of Taylor’s game, but he never struck out 30 percent of the time with the Dodgers, until this year’s 35.4-percent mark. Among major leaguers with at least 400 plate appearances, Taylor’s strikeout rate was second-highest, behind only teammate Joey Gallo.

Taylor and Gallo were part of a flawed Dodgers quartet vying for playing time down the stretch, mostly in left field and center field, along with Cody Bellinger and Trayce Thompson.

Roberts stuck with the trusted Taylor, until a neck injury proved too painful to continue. Taylor missed the final five games of the regular season after getting a cortisone shot. It was a similar pattern to 2021, when an ailing Taylor limped to the finish of the regular season, but Roberts’ faith in him proved wise during the postseason that year. He hit a walk-off home run to win the wild card game and added a three-homer game in the NLCS.

This year though, no such resurgence came for Taylor, who missed the first two games of the NLDS. He started the final two games of the series in left field, but was 0-for-7 with five strikeouts.

Most concerning of Taylor’s 2022 season was his lack of power over the final four months, hitting just .201 with a .324 slugging percentage. How much of that was injury-related remains to be seen, but it’s at least worth watching going forward.

2022 particulars

Age: 31

Stats: .221/.304/.373, 93 wRC+, 25 doubles, 10 HR, 10 SB, 0.5 bWAR, 1.9 fWAR

Salary: $15 million

Game of the year

Taylor had a trio of three-hit games in 2022, but June 26 against the Braves stood out for a few reasons. For one, Taylor did not start on that getaway day in Atlanta, and didn’t even enter the game until the seventh inning. He was also instrumental in a comeback win against the eventual National League East winners.

After singling in the second, Taylor singled again with two outs in the ninth inning against old friend Kenley Jansen. That gave the Dodgers runners at the corners down 2-0 before Taylor stole second base. Then both he and Gavin Lux scored on a single by Thompson. In the 11th, Taylor delivered the game-winning hit, an RBI double off Austin Riley’s glove at third base in what ended as a 5-3 Los Angeles triumph.

Taylor is one of only four Dodgers during this century to collect three hits in a game in which he did not start.

Roster status

Taylor has three years remaining on his contract, and will make $15 million in 2023.