Nashville Sounds’ catcher Beau Taylor is both a person one could call a late-bloomer and a person for whom it is easy to root due to his infectious personality.
Drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of the University of Central Florida, the 27-year-old toiled away at Double-A Midland for parts of six years before being called up to Triple-A Nashville this year.
That is a ton of bus rides and cheap food, but he said he never thought of quitting the game.
“No, not really,” Taylor said with a smile. “I was there for a reason. I got there really quick and I knew there was something that I needed to improve on for me to move on to the next level, so that’s why it took a little longer than they expected.”
His patience was rewarded by what he said he had to learn – even more patience, as well some relaxation about his approach to the game.
While always being an above-average defensive catcher, it was his offense that had to come around.
The signs were always there – an 858 OPS in High-A Stockton in 2012 at age 22, and a 987 OPS for the same team in 2014 – but the regression happened to average or below until last year, when he made the Texas League post-season All-Star team and .280/.383/.398. Taylor’s offensive game has taken another step forward this year when he hit .309/.385/.485 for an OPS of 870 at Midland, which earned him the call up to Nashville on June 26. Since his arrival in Music City, his slashline is .297/.387/.398 for an OPS of 785 in 35 games and 137 plate appearances through Sunday. Good numbers for a catcher.
So, what finally clicked?
“Actually, just working with all of our hitting coaches Eric Martens [at Triple-A Nashville] and Brian McArn down in Midland, just simplifying everything and not trying to do too much,” Taylor said. “Before, I was like ‘I’m going to hit this ball out’ and trying to hit home runs. Instead…I know my strengths now and I’m trying to stay in my plan – not trying to hit the ball out every time and trying to hit the gaps and just consistently put the barrel on the ball.”
While Taylor has tried to cut down on trying to hit a home run every at-bat, his slugging percentage in Nashville is actually the second highest of his career, a fact which shocks him.
“They were telling me that,” he said of his coaches. “They were like, ‘we told you three years ago that all you had to do was be consistent with your approach and keep attacking the ball – you’re going to hit the ball out.’ Instead of trying to generate power – which I was trying to do – and instead just swing regular and don’t try to overdo it.”
Now that Taylor is up to Triple-A, he is really enjoying the experience.
“It’s better than I imagined,” he said. “I heard the stories about all the stuff that we get and the fields are nice, there are a lot of big league guys, so it’s been better than I expected. The jump is going pretty smooth. I kind of had an idea of how it was here from playing in the Dominican, because I played winter ball in the Dominican last year and they were telling me about how Triple-A was, and I was just excited for the opportunity to get here, and now it’s here and it’s amazing everyday to come here to the field.”
Now that he has finally made the jump, Taylor is working towards being more of a complete player.
“More of being consistent hitting and getting better as a catcher – I feel like in catching you learn something almost every single day – but just growing up and being a better and more consistent hitter,” he said.
One would think being a catcher and calling pitches for pitchers would help one at the plate, but Taylor said it is not an advantage for him, personally.
“I get that question a lot, even from players on this team,” he said with a laugh. “I guess sometimes it can – maybe guess a count like maybe ‘this pitch might be coming here,’ but honestly, I try not to think at all at the plate because I feel like if you start thinking at the plate, it just messes you up…I’m not a real big guesser on pitches…I just like to see it. I need to see the ball first and react to it, but for some [catchers] I think it does, but for me, I try not to think of catching and what the guy is going to throw right here; I just try to be clear-minded when I get in the box.”
Defensively, Taylor is grateful for the experience he has had in Nashville surrounded by catchers who have had major league experience.
“It’s definitely helped,” Taylor said. “[Josh] Phegley helped a lot, too – just talking to him – because he’s been up there for a while, also, and just trying to pick his mind on what we’re doing everyday and having a true routine – [Ryan] Lavarnway has been up there a lot also.
“As soon as I got here, they kind of grabbed me and were like ‘we’ve got to do this; you’ve got to do this a certain way,’… and I take every single thing that they’re saying and put it in my own way, but they’ve helped out a lot for me and I want to be where they were at or are at.”
Now that he has taken the next step towards a possible major league appearance, Taylor is focusing on consistency.
“I’ve just got to try to keep doing what I’ve been doing and try to get better,” he said.
His plans are to go back to the Dominican League this winter to improve his craft, adding he really enjoys the type of ball they play.
“It’s fun,” Taylor said. “It’s very electric. The fans there are awesome – I don’t know what they’re saying – but they’re just yelling.
“You know when they’re booing at you, but it’s very competitive; you’re there to win, and if you don’t do good, you’re gone. They’ll send you packing really quick. I remember the first game I was catching there – and I’ve fist-pumped before after a big out – but it was like the first inning I caught there and it was a big out and the crowd goes crazy and I’m fist-pumping all the way back to the dugout and everybody is high-fiving.”
It is the enthusiasm of those fans he enjoys.
“You’re allowed to pimp ball and pimp home runs there – it’s not a big thing there, but it’s a crazy feeling to actually see that – it’s fun. The games are really, really long, but it’s really fun down there,” Taylor said. “I’m not saying it’s not fun here, but it’s completely different…it’s nuts – they have all their noise makers.
“I did pretty well there last year, but at the last game I caught there I missed a ball in the dirt, and I heard booing from everybody,” he said, drawing out and emphasizing the word ‘Everybody.’ “I was like, ‘I just hit a double…and now you’re booing me for missing a ball in the dirt? I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
But his real goal is the major leagues, and while he might be a late bloomer, he may just get there.
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