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MLB Draft 2023: Tampa Bay Rays select TCU SS Brayden Taylor at No. 19

The Rays top pick of the draft is a low-risk collegiate SS/3B with mixed reviews

The Tampa Bay Rays have selected collegiate infielder Brayden Taylor, who mans the left side of the infield for TCU but is not locked into any position. the 6’ 1” Taylor bats lefty and throws righty.

And here’s the interview with the player:

Taylor had a baffling first round draft profile, entering the year with an expectation of being a high draft pick he saw his stock fall in terms of expectations to the Comp-A round, but not before some late helium on the online draft board brought him back up to about where the Rays selected him.

As a result there was a variety of opinions out there for the sure-armed infielder.

For a ringing endorsement, FanGraphs had Taylor mocked No. 6 overall just one week ago, and currently rank him as a low-risk 45 FV prospect, and 24th overall on their board.

Taylor go off to a rough start in 2023 but righted the ship and hit a career-best 23 homers, ending his career at TCU slashing .318/.446/.604. While on the surface it seems like Taylor early-season swoon was a blip, he did have some swing-and-miss issues exposed in 2023. He lacks precise barrel feel and is extremely pull-oriented, creating a hole on the outer third of the zone. Taylor’s hitting hands are still fairly explosive and he has average big league raw power right now, and room for more strength on his frame. He’s a very rangy defender with a plus arm, and as long as he’s getting to most of his power, he can have a 40-grade hit tool and still be an important big league contributor, if not an everyday third baseman. Taylor has more hit tool risk than is typical for a multi-year college performer, but should still go in the first round.

And here’s his more recent write up from CBS Sports:

Back in the preseason, Taylor was considered to be one of the safest second-tier collegiate hitters in the class. So much for that. His stock dropped throughout the year, as he struck out a career-worst 17.7% of the time and he hit fewer line drives than usual. To Taylor’s credit, he did launch a personal-best 22 home runs, nearly doubling his collegiate total. One can only presume that his new emphasis on slugging explains his increased strikeouts and shift away from line drives. (Perhaps that’s an encouraging thought for an organization that would want to persuade him to go back to his old approach?) Scouts have expressed reservations about his defense and athleticism in the past, suggesting that he needs to hit to hold value. Add in his season, and he’ll likely slip to the end of the first round.

In summary, Taylor’s has a bat that barrels despite a lack of feel for the zone, and an arm that plays despite defense that can look a bit unpolished.

Here’s Taylor’s full profile, courtesy of the Rays press release:

Taylor, 21, hit .308/.430/.631 with 15 doubles, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 77 runs and 14 steals in 58 games during his junior season, earning First Team All-Big 12 and Third Team Baseball America All-American honors. His 23 home runs and 77 runs scored both tied single-season program records, while his 48 career homers broke Royce Huffman’s program record of 44 HR set in 1999. Taylor was named the 2023 Big 12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after going 8-for-16 (.500) with four doubles and three home runs, leading the Horned Frogs to their fourth Big 12 Tournament Championship in program history and their first College World Series appearance since 2017.

As a sophomore in 2022, Taylor hit .314/.454/.576 with 14 doubles, one triple, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 55 runs and 10 steals across 59 games, earning Second Team All-Big 12 honors. He played for the 2022 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team following the season.

As a freshman in 2021, he appeared in 58 games, hitting .324/.445/.572 with 11 doubles, four triples, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 54 runs and 15 steals, earning Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year, First Team Perfect Game Freshman All-American and First Team D1Baseball Freshman All-American honors. Following his freshman campaign, he was named a 2021 Cape Cod League All-Star as a member of the Falmouth Commodores.

Taylor was ranked as the No. 14 player in this year’s draft by, No 15. by Baseball America and No. 24 by FanGraphs.