DENVER -- Rockies outfielder Mike Tauchman was drafted in the 10th round out of Bradley University in 2013, and he developed quickly enough to bat .286 while spending the entire 2016 season at Triple-A Albuquerque. He had exceeded everyone's expectations but his own.The problem was Tauchman hit just one homer
DENVER -- Rockies outfielder Mike Tauchman was drafted in the 10th round out of Bradley University in 2013, and he developed quickly enough to bat .286 while spending the entire 2016 season at Triple-A Albuquerque. He had exceeded everyone's expectations but his own.
The problem was Tauchman hit just one homer that season and had hit only eight in a productive Minor League career. But through studiousness, smart coaching and an intensity that carried him past more highly touted payers, Tauchman hit 16 homers, batted .331 and slugged .555 in 110 Triple-A games in 2017 and earned his first big league shot.
Tauchman, 27, a left-handed hitter who plays all three outfield positions, will enter Spring Training hoping to use his newfound power to try to earn a bigger slice of playing time.
"I've always felt I was a guy who plays with a lot of emotion and a little bit of an edge," said Tauchman, who credits his intensity to growing up playing quarterback, receiver, defensive back and kick returner in high school in football-obsessed Palatine, Ill. "When I play, I want people to say, 'That kid plays hard.' If the effort is there, this is the kind of game where effort gets rewarded."
Tauchman isn't the first name that comes up when forecasting the young outfielders who could emerge this season. David Dahl hit .315 with seven homers in 63 games in 2016 but missed last season with a rib injury, and Raimel Tapia went hitless in his first 15 Rockies at-bats last year but .360 in 146 at-bats the rest of the way. With Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra and Ian Desmond (when not playing first base) also part of the picture, and with the team considering bringing back free-agent right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, Tauchman would be the definition of an unheralded competitor.
If the work that started last winter continues to pay off, Tauchman has a shot to be noticed.
In the Minors, Tauchman was always in a position to receive playing time, and staying healthy and hitting .301 in 494 games kept him on the field. But Tauchman, a well-put-together 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, knew there was a gap between his physique and his power numbers.
Through his college hitting coach, Tauchman found Chicago-based Justin Stone, who had worked for the Chicago White Sox Academy developing young players before taking his video and analytics-based training methods to Elite Baseball Training, where young Chicagoland players developed into college prospects -- and pros began finding him.
Tauchman's average was a product of hands and bat control. But through watching video with Stone, Tauchman learned that his lower body was not firing in time to help his handsy swing put a charge into the ball. Improving the timing would improve bat speed and launch angle.
"There was a mechanical change that gave him more confidence, because he recognized he was going to be able to get the balls on the inner half and drive them over the right fielder's head and into the bleachers as opposed to hooking it over the second baseman," Stone said. "With that, there still has to come an attitude in play. He talked about [Albuquerque manager] Glenallen Hill's influence over him in having a killer instinct."
Tauchman had just 27 at-bats (six hits, including a triple) in 31 Major League games last season. He was used as a pinch-runner during the team's drive to the postseason, and his running led manager Bud Black to put him on the roster for the 11-8 loss to the D-backs in the National League Wild Card Game.
"What a great development story and personal story that is. He's put in a ton of work, our coaches have put in a ton of work, and he's turned himself into one of those dynamic players," Rockies senior player development director Zach Wilson said. "He can really play center field, and he really has an instinct to run the bases.
"He'll give you a 'plus' run time [faster than Major League average] every once in a while. But he'll go first to third -- he really has instincts for that -- has a feel for when to take the extra base, has a feel for when to take a dirt ball and advance. All those little things are so important to win a game."
Tauchman hopes his developing power gives the Rockies more options.
"If I show up in great shape and with my swing feeling how I want it to, I'm hoping to make the most out of the opportunities I can get," Tauchman said. "That's really all I can do."