Tyrone Taylor read the scouting reports. Both amateur and professional scouting types alike tabbed him as a “tools” guy.
While a compliment to his impressive physical attributes, the implication was that Taylor was not refined, needed coaching and a lot of work on the fundamentals.
The 19-year-old native of Torrance, Calif., is surprising many of those experts by putting up solid numbers across the board in his first full season of professional baseball. A second-round selection of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012, Taylor is hitting .279 with 17 extra-base hits including four home runs to go along with 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
He used the scouting reports as fuel for the fire heading into this season.
“I read all those things about me,” Taylor said. “It kind of put a little chip on my shoulder. I’ve been playing baseball all my life. I’ve never really thought of myself as a raw guy.”
After the Brewers selected him, Taylor quickly signed and proceeded to hit .387 in the first 18 games of his professional career, starting in the rookie Arizona League followed by a stint with Helena in the Pioneer League.
Taylor’s first season would have an unfortunate finish as he was shut down with a shoulder injury.
“It was tough,” Taylor said. “Coming into the season I felt about 90 percent. I had to be the designated hitter for two weeks and then I think I came back on the field a little too soon. The Brewers handled it really well. I had good training and rehab and feel 100 percent now.”
Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson likes what he sees out of his center fielder.
“He’s a guy that we hold in high regard,” Erickson said. “He’s obviously athletic, can run and has great hand-eye coordination. The thing that stands out most to me is his pitch selection. For a 19-year old to have a feel for the strike zone the way he does is impressive. If you can do that, command the strike zone, no matter how old you are, you are usually going to have success, especially with the tools he has.”
Taylor has struck out just 26 times in 219 at-bats, and although he has walked just 16 times this season, six of those have come in the last 10 games, during which he has batted .472.
“He was scheduled to be our leadoff guy,” Erickson said. “But we had some guys get called up in the middle of our lineup. So we dropped him to the three spot and didn’t really ask him to do anything different. He’s one of our most consistent hitters. He’s done everything we’ve asked. Over the course of the first half, you can see his confidence growing as he has success.”
His ability on the defensive side was evident Tuesday when he caught a sinking line drive and then threw a rocket to first base to double up Matt Olson at first.
“I actually didn’t get a good read on that ball,” Taylor said. “And I also couldn’t see very well because of the twilight sky. But when I caught it and saw him off the bag, I was pretty excited. I do pride myself on my defense.”
Asked which area he has improved the most since being drafted, Taylor had a quick response.
“I think my hitting for sure,” Taylor said. “I remember the first time I hit off a tee in front of the hitting coach Sandy Guerrero. He was like ‘Holy cow, this kid is going to need a lot of work.’ But they taught me a few things and I’m a pretty quick learner.”
Brewers fans have had a difficult time getting excited about the team currently occupying Miller Park. They would be well served to closely follow the exploits of Taylor in the next few years.
“I’ve been in the league five years now,” Erickson said. “And we haven’t had a lot of high school kids come here and have immediate offensive success. Because of his pitch selection and his mature approach, I’m not surprised at his success after getting to know him.”