SURPRISE, Ariz. --- There’s a lot Samad Taylor could be playing for in this year’s Arizona Fall League. A chance to prove he’s healthy after an oblique injury kept him out from July 13 onward. A first impression with the Royals after he was traded from the Blue Jays just before the Deadline. An opportunity to take a 40-man spot with Rule 5 eligibility coming once again this offseason.
Instead, he is trying his best to keep an even keel in the desert.
“If you think about it, every day you’re playing for every organization,” Taylor said. “I feel like I don’t need to put pressure on myself and go out there and go, ‘I just got traded. I have to show out.’ Nah, just go out there, play my game and the rest will take care of itself.”
The approach paid dividends Tuesday in Taylor’s best AFL game yet.
Kansas City’s No. 25 prospect homered as part of his first multihit Fall League performance, finishing 2-for-4 with four RBIs, to lead Surprise to a 9-3 win over Glendale at Surprise Stadium.
Taylor wasted no time getting going by homering on the first pitch he saw from Dodgers right-hander Emmet Sheehan, depositing it 397 feet away and into the left-field bullpen. The three-run dinger, which gave the Saguaros a 6-0 early lead in the first inning, was the right-handed slugger’s second in his last three games and second in the AFL at large through 13 games.
“I just tried to change my plan and get back to hunting first-pitch heaters,” he said. “He threw a first-pitch heater. I put a good swing on it, and it went over.”
That could have set the tone for the evening, but Taylor chose a different tact for his second at-bat in the third frame. Noticing that White Sox left-hander Sammy Peralta was on the mound and Brewers first baseman Zavier Warren was back, the Surprise No. 8 hitter laid down a perfect bunt up the first-base line and used his plus speed to reach safely. Those wheels came into play again when Taylor swiped both second and third base after that infield single.
That agility has long been the 24-year-old’s best tool, but as a player who completed a 16-homer season as recently as 2021 at Double-A New Hampshire, Taylor has shown a decent amount of pop for his size at 5-foot-10 too. In many ways, Tuesday was a bit of the quintessential Samad Taylor experience.
“I try to bring everything to the game every day,” he said. “That’s all it is. If I have fun and do what I have to do to help the team win, that’s what I’ll do.”
Exhibiting as many tools as possible during these six weeks is as important for Taylor as arguably anyone else in the Fall League.
After Toronto chose not to add Taylor to the 40-man when he was eligible last offseason, the 2016 10th-rounder spent the entire regular season with Triple-A Buffalo, where he hit .258/.337/.426 with nine homers and 23 steals in 70 games before suffering the oblique injury on a swing that put him on the injured list for the remainder of the regular season.
He was in Florida, about to begin his rehab, when he got news that the Jays were trading him to the Royals (along with Max Castillo) in a deal for Whit Merrifield on Aug. 2. He never got to debut with a Kansas City affiliate until Fall League play opened three weeks ago.
“Being in this environment off of the oblique, I was a little leery about it,” Taylor said. “But it's been treating me well. I haven't had problems since. I'm glad that 100 percent healthy and back in the ballpark.”
His place in KC’s youth movement remains to be seen, but if Taylor, who has been second-base-only in the AFL but has some outfield experience, can keep stringing performances together like Tuesday’s, the Royals will find him a spot.
“It just shows the young guys can play the game too, and it shows that they believe in young guys to help them up top,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to be up top by the end of this year or the start of the year. Whatever point it is, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there and hopefully bring a World Series to Kansas City.”
Two Top 100 prospects went deep for Glendale in Tuesday’s loss. No. 17 Noelvi Marte crushed a two-run shot 461 feet to the concourse in left-center in the second inning. (No Reds player hit a longer homer, as measured by Statcast, during the 2022 Major League regular season.) No. 66 Andy Pages similarly pulled a solo homer in the ninth -- his fourth of the AFL, putting him in a four-way tie for second in the circuit.