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We continue our long-running series of articles debating fantasy rankings with a super-utility player that suddenly became a fantasy force in 2017. The question remains: is it repeatable?

RotoBaller's expert writers have come up with our consensus rankings for mixed leagues, but that doesn't mean we agreed on everything. In this space, we'll hear from rankers with the biggest differences of opinion on a well-known player and have them defend their position against each other.

Today, the topic is Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Chris Taylor. Kyle Bishop sees him as a top-100 fantasy player, while Pierre Camus isn't buying into last year's numbers just yet. Let's get ready to rumble!

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!

 

2018 Draft Rankings Debate - Chris Taylor

Rank Tier Player Position Kyle Nick Pierre Jeff Harris Bill
 107 8 Chris Taylor 2B/SS/OF 90 91 176 103 133 93

 

Kyle Bishop's Ranking: #90 overall

Entering last season, Chris Taylor was a former top prospect who, like most prospects with the misfortune of coming through the Mariners system, hadn't accomplished much at the MLB level. Across three partial seasons in the bigs, Taylor had amassed a .598 OPS, a 27% strikeout rate, and just one home run across 318 plate appearances before Seattle gave up and shipped him to the Dodgers.

Something had to change, and something did - Taylor's swing. Working with the same hitting consultant who unlocked J.D. Martinez and fellow Dodger Justin Turner, Taylor added distance and velocity to his fly balls and hit fewer balls on the ground. The net result was a breakout year in which Taylor put up a .288-21-85-72-17 line while maintaining eligibility at second, short, and outfield. During the season, Taylor solidified himself as the Dodgers' leadoff hitter, and he continued to put up terrific numbers during the postseason.

Taylor did strike out in a quarter of his at-bats, and it's also true that his .361 BABIP was on the high side. Projection systems are certainly anticipating some regression on his batting average; that's fair, but Taylor does have the profile to support a high BABIP. He's fast, he rarely pop ups, and only two qualified hitters last season turned more grounders into infield hits. I believe in the power surge, and also think there's some stolen base upside here; Taylor swiped 31 bags per 600 plate appearances in the minor. That, plus the fact that he's a good bet to score 100 runs atop the Dodgers lineup, is enough to mitigate the possible AVG downside.
If you're not willing to spend a top 100 pick on Taylor given his lack of a track record, that's fine. But Pierre's ranking puts Taylor behind (among others) Paul DeJong, Javier Baez, Ian Happ, and Yoan Moncada - all players who are just as risky in batting average while not offering the same run production and SB potential.

 

Pierre Camus' Ranking: #176 overall

Call me conservative when it comes to judging players with small or no track records of success at the Major League level, but at least I'm consistent in this regard. I've already said I'm not willing to overpay for Tommy Pham and Taylor represents a similarly risky commodity. If anything, Taylor offers value at multiple positions where offense is harder to come by, which makes him a great MI option, but I guarantee I can think of 12 players at second base or shortstop that might provide equal or better value, most of which come at a far better draft day price.

Taylor hit .288, which is fine on its own, except that it was fueled by a .361 BABIP and slightly sub-par plate discipline (0.35 BB/K). The 21 home runs weren't just a career high, they were a complete anomaly. Taylor hit a total of 22 HR in his previous five minor league seasons combined. That's not a small sample size, folks. The speed is legit, but we're not going to ever see 30+ steals in a season, so again we may have already seen the best he has to offer in that category. If you're looking for somebody who can get you 15 HR, 20 SB and an average around .280, you could opt for Orlando Arcia with an ADP of 158, Andrelton Simmons at 210, Cesar Hernandez at 256, or Josh Harrison at 262.

Alternately, you could sacrifice a bit of average and take Freddy Galvis, Ian Kinsler, Tim Anderson, or any of the options Kyle mentioned toward the end. Speaking of, let's look at those comps quickly. DeJong hit 22 homers at the Double-A level in 2016 and had smacked 13 in his first 48 games at Triple-A before the getting the call and continuing to mash in the majors. The Cards were convinced enough to give him a six-year, $26 million deal before this season even kicks off! That explains why I'm highest on him among all our rankers.

If Kyle is so down on Happ, why is his ranking higher than all of our rankers (108) and barely behind Taylor? He might be the best comp to Taylor, but I also happen to be lower on Happ than most for the same reasons. Moncada was the second-ranked prospect in all of baseball last year, so let's not pretend Taylor's ceiling approaches what Moncada is capable of.

The fact is that Chris Taylor was never a top-100 prospect or expected to have the kind of season he did in 2017. As Nicholas Stellini of Fangraphs said, "Nobody ever looked at Taylor and saw a serious power threat, or a player who would prove to offer real value on both sides of the ball..." One full season of success shouldn't be enough to jump on a player that may or may not repeat it. If I'm not taken a proven guy in the first few rounds at middle infield positions, I'm waiting for one of the numerous value picks, all of whom are still more proven and reliable than Taylor.

 

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