Did Blake Taylor Win The Ike Davis Trade For The Mets?
In April, the New York Mets solved their first base log jam by trading Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor-league reliever Zack Thornton and a player to be named later reported to be a significant 2013 Pirates draftee. On June 15th, Pittsburgh sent former second round pick Blake Taylor to New York to complete the deal. Assigned to the team’s complex in Port St Lucie, Taylor debuted with the GCL Mets. After three appearances, the 19-year-old was promoted to the Mets’ Appalachian League affiliate in Kingsport, Tennessee.
Pitching for the K-Mets has been a struggle for the former Dana Hill High School (CA) product. Taylor has allowed 48 batters to reach base in 26.1 innings (1.823 WHIP). He’s walked more batters than he’s struck out (.94 SO:BB) and has allowed 10.3 hits per nine innings. Appy league hitters have taken advantage of his rawness. Are Taylor’s struggles associated with changing organizations or do the struggles hint at something much deeper?
Listed at six-foot-three and 220 pounds, the left-handed starter is a man among boys. Taylor’s body is near physical projection with long, thick tree trunks for legs. The 19-year old’s sturdy base ensures he can handle the rigors of starting pitching. Additional weight on his frame would be detrimental to future development. However, a regimented fitness program would help Taylor turn some bulkiness into leaner muscle.
Repetition haunts the young hurler’s pitching motion. However, the framework is sound to build a repeatable delivery. A controlled leg lift allows Taylor to stand tall and gather well at the balance point. Throughout the scouted start, Taylor struggled driving towards the target. One pitch he’d step open with his lead leg. The next pitch he’d step across his body. Each instance would lead Taylor to lose his release point. This compromised command and velocity. The struggles weren’t just with driving towards the target. The prospect also struggled finishing pitches and cutting his stride short. As the evening wore on, consistency driving towards the target improved. This led to better results.
Leading up to the draft, questions surfaced about Taylor’s fastball velocity with huge discrepancies from start-to-start. Clocked as high as 94 mph, his fastball would sometimes fall as low as 83 mph. In the scouted start, Taylor’s two-seam fastball sat 88-90 mph. The pitch has significant arm-side run and steady sink. The sink was aided by Taylor’s ability to create downward plane. The former second round pick has projection left, but poor pitching mechanics plague the fastball. Adjustments to the delivery should correct command issues and add velocity.
Blake Taylor throws two different breaking pitches. The more polished of the two offerings was a 75-77 mph curveball with 1-7 break. A curve is an advantage for pitchers throwing from a high 3/4’s arm angle like Taylor. In an interview conducted by Amazin’ Avenue’s Jeffrey Paternostro, K-Mets pitching coach Jonathan Hurst hinted at the Pirates dropping the pitch entirely. Now back in Taylor’s arsenal, it’s a secondary pitch with projection left.
Early, Taylor struggled to get on top of the curve. Late, it became his primary weapon. The pitch was thrown with depth and late diving action. He was able to spot the pitch for strikes in the 4th and 5th. When it dove out of the zone, it was a true swing-and-miss offering. However, the youngster’s arm slowed his delivery slightly and struggled to maintain sharpness. Maintaining tight rotation with the curve has been an ongoing issue since high school.
Taylor relied heavily on his slider early, but the 86-87 mph offering presented as poor. The majority of seven scattered hits resulted from flat sliders. Breaking early, the Frisbee-like offering sat in the zone. Without much velocity differential from the fastball, the pitch was easy for opponents to barrel and needs to be revamped in instructs.
An 81-82 mph change up showed promise. Taylor recently added a new grip for his change from Mets senior advisor Guy Conti. Conti is credited with teaching an 18-year-old Pedro Martinez the grip in the Pioneer League. A circle change, the pitch has more drop but similar bore to his two-seam fastball. He choked the ball in his hand to create deception. Taylor’s command was woeful, but an off-season mastering the new grip will help increase Taylor’s comfort level with the pitch.
Blake Taylor is a lottery ticket for New York. With a reputation for drafting and developing strike throwers, a pitcher with upside and little polish is a welcome change. Ironing out mechanical issues will help establish his footing in the organization. Without a doubt, the former second round pick is a long term project for the Mets and it will be years before Mets fans know if General Manager Sandy Alderson may have robbed Pittsburgh blind a second time in less than a year.
Tool Present Future Projected Role Swing man/Bullpen arm on first division team. Fastball 40 55 Slider 20 25 Curveball 30 55 Change-up 30 50 Control 25 40 Command 25 40
Owning Blake Taylor
In deep dynasty leagues, Taylor has probably been drafted and dropped already. He’s not worth stashing for the time being, but add the left-hander to watch lists and monitor his progress. The Mets have been developing quality young pitching in bunches and the organization is an excellent landing spot for Taylor. In recent years, Tyler Matzek was another left-handed pitcher with inconsistent velocity and command issues. He was able to right the ship to some extent, so it’s possible for Blake Taylor to as well. – Mike Newman
19 Aug 2014 / Chris Blessing /
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