Taylor homers, preaches 'next man up'

November 7th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers' instructional league camp was winding down in mid-October, after which Carson Taylor was ready to head home for the offseason. Then the Glendale Desert Dogs needed an extra catcher, so Taylor moved to the other side of the Camelback Ranch complex to participate in the Arizona Fall League.

As the third catcher on the roster, Taylor hasn't gotten a ton of playing time. He has made two starts behind the plate and three at DH, but he has seized the opportunities he has received. He collected two hits in the fourth inning Saturday night, scoring twice and driving in three runs with a single and a home run, to help Glendale beat the Salt River Rafters, 11-2.

Taylor's home run traveled 401 feet with an exit velocity of 104 mph against Brewers right-hander Jolon Zhao. The Dodgers' No. 30 prospect is hitting .409/.409/.682 with two homers in 22 at-bats.

Though it's not easy to maintain his swing and timing with limited at-bats, Taylor doesn't look at his assignment that way.

"It's kind of like the 'next man up' mentality; coming in, doing your job," said Taylor, a fourth-round pick in 2020 from Virginia Tech. "It's a fun spot, kind of no pressure; just come out, relax, enjoy yourself while you do it."

Known more for his offense, the switch-hitting Taylor batted .278/.371/.433 with nine homers in 79 games with High-A Great Lakes during his pro debut this summer. He controls the strike zone well and makes consistent hard contact, and the Dodgers believe he could develop 15-20-homer power if he learns to drive more pitches in the air to his pull side. They've made some adjustments to his left-handed stroke -- his natural side -- to help him unlock more pop.

"We shortened up the left-handed swing a little bit," Taylor said. "It was a little loopy, so I struggled with pitches up in the zone early on, so it was huge for me to shorten it up. It gave me a lot more room to work and grow as a hitter. Right-handed, there was a little bit [of loop], but it was more so left-handed."

Despite catching just 18 2/3 innings in AFL games, Taylor has been able to work on his defense. He said catching a wide variety of Desert Dogs pitchers in bullpen sessions has helped. He's trying to improve his throwing after erasing just 19 percent of basestealers in his debut and he continues to gain experience running a pitching staff.

"I feel like my receiving has gotten a lot better than where it was coming out of college, and even during the season," Taylor said. "I feel like my throwing is a work in progress. Game-calling, just getting the experience to call games still has helped me out a ton. It's obviously a learning process."

In addition to Taylor, Glendale also got contributions from two other Dodgers prospects. Center fielder James Outman went 3-for-4 with two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI, and the club's No. 27 prospect also threw out Mets second baseman Wilmer Reyes at third base to snuff out a rally in the fifth. Shortstop Jacob Amaya -- L.A.'s No. 14 prospect -- went 2-for-4 and scored a run.

Salt River collected 11 hits, including three by Brewers catcher Mario Feliciano (No. 13), but left 12 runners on base and didn't score until the ninth inning.

With its sixth win in its last seven contests, the Desert Dogs (13-8) have picked up four games on the Surprise Saguaros this week and have moved into a first-place tie in the West Division. The Rafters dropped to 7-13, the worst record in the developmental circuit.