Contributed by Mike Feifel, Senior Writer/Lead Photographer
Let’s take a look at Michael Taylor, who will make the trip from Philly to Oakland (after a brief pit-stop in Toronto), as a part of the Roy Halladay mega-trade. We scouted Taylor on a regular basis. We interviewed him. We have the numero uno fantasy scoop on this dude. Period.
Taken in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, Taylor steadily worked his way through the Philadelphia farm system and was on the cusp of a big league call-up. Looking for a comparison, you fantasy shoppers? Think a sleek Frank Thomas. I know, a tough image to visualize. The take-home point is this: Taylor is massive, but can move on the bases and in the field. His rise through the Phillies system is marked by nothing but success. In his 2008 stops at Low-A Lakewood and High-A Clearwater, Taylor batted .346, ripped 39 doubles, clobbered 19 homers, and swiped 15 stolen bases. He pretty much spent the first half of the 2009 season at Double-A Reading. As the Eastern League’s Player of the Month in June, he had a .369 BA with eight doubles, five homers and 19 RBIs. Not too shabby.
Based on his stellar first half performance, the 24-year-old Taylor was named to the Eastern League All-Star game before his mid-season promotion to Triple-A. Continuing to rack up the awards, he was named Eastern League (Double-A) Rookie of the Year. Further, Taylor was chosen by Baseball America as being the “Best Batting Prospect” and the “Most Exciting Player” in the same league.
As a beat writer for the Phillies’ Triple-A club (the Lehigh Valley IronPigs), I had the pleasure of watching Taylor on a daily basis. At 6-6, 250-pounds, Taylor’s blend of speed and power is scary (fantasy) good. Though hampered by an abdominal strain that left him on Lehigh Valley’s disabled list for a bit, Taylor batted .320 for the season and became the first IronPig to hit for the cycle. This speedy mass of humanity also slugged 20 home runs, stole 21 bases, and drove in 84 runs, all in just 116 games.
Great minor league numbers, but how will that translate into the majors? Although Taylor will not be a 40 home run hitter, he will be a well-rounded player that hits for average and pop. The ball jumps off his bat and he drives the ball from gap to gap. Taylor’s speed allows him to grab extra bases and score additional runs. On numerous occasions, the big man left my jaw sitting in my complimentary press box fries. Yeah, the perks of being a writer, tell me about it.
To top it all off, after having the opportunity to interview him, Taylor’s personality and mental toughness is that of a superstar. Since his youth, he has been dealing with type-1 diabetes. Checking insulin levels on a daily basis is a challenge for a professional athlete. Taylor summed up his personal hurdle best when he stated, “I have to be diligent in what I am doing. I always want to know where I am. I don’t want to be surprised. I don’t want to be in the third inning and have a ‘low’ sneak up on me.”
His body’s response to the food he ingests changes as seasons progress and the weather changes; thus, determining the level of dosage for his insulin. His diabetes should not affect whether or where you draft him, as Taylor has never been taken out of a game because of his condition and is determined to keep that streak alive. In between innings, he’ll do what it takes to keep his insulin levels within an optimal range for peak performance.
Already noted, Taylor has the personality and confidence of a budding star. He openly speaks to fans at the park about his diabetes. One day, he will make a great spokesperson. “I’m not at the level that I can be a national spokesman, but I have had families come up to me after games,” Taylor said.
His fantasy value right now could not be higher after his trade to the hitter-friendly American League and the opportunity-friendly Athletics. Trust me, Ryan Sweeney isn’t going to be an obstacle to “The Big Speedy Hurt” (I try). His new team is once again retooling behind Billy Beane. Taylor will receive a major league call in July 2010 and will be a sweet rookie reserve on your squads. Grab him late in redraft AL-only leagues and stash him for the long haul in keeper leagues.
You don’t meet many fantasy prospects like Taylor. He possesses the advanced skills and maturity to make a significant fantasy impact sooner than most expect. Have faith in your trusty beat writer.