Samad Taylor’s MLB debut at Kauffman Stadium couldn’t have had a better storybook ending.
The Royals, mired in a 10-game losing streak, were down 8-2 to the Los Angeles Angels going into the bottom of the seventh. Somehow, the club scrapped together three runs in the seventh and then three runs in the eighth inning to tie the game going into the ninth.
Unfortunately, Aroldis Chapman, the Royals’ most prized trade chip currently, was unable to hold the lead, as he gave up the go-ahead run on a Mike Trout single in the top of the ninth. Unlike many hitters this season, Trout was not overwhelmed by Chapman’s 100 mph fastball.
Despite it looking like an 11th-straight loss for the Royals, the young club was able to scrap together the tying run, highlighted first by a Maikel Garcia single that drove in Dairon Blanco. After Garcia stole 2nd, and Nicky Lopez bunted Garcia over to third, Taylor came to the plate with a chance to win it.
On an 0-1 changeup in the zone from Chris Devenski, Taylor lined a single to deep center field. With only one out, Trout didn’t make a play for the ball (though it was likely he wouldn’t have gotten it anyways), Garcia scored, and the celebration mob ensued around Taylor to cherish not just the much-needed win, but Taylor’s simultaneous first career hit and walk off.
The 19th-best prospect in the Royals system currently, according to MLB Pipeline, Taylor is a prime example of persistence in the Minor Leagues, and his game-winning moment couldn’t have been more deserving.
Drafted in the 10th round of the 2016 draft by Cleveland out of Corona (CA) high school, Taylor has been traded twice in his professional career. The first time came in 2017 when he was traded to Toronto along with LHP Thomas Pannone for RHP Joe Smith. The second time came last season as he was also included with Max Castillo in a deal with the Royals for Whit Merrifield. Both deals came at the Trade Deadline.
Taylor has always offered a unique skill set with surprising power, solid speed, and good fielding tools.
In 62 games in Triple-A Omaha this year, he was not only hitting .304 but had also collected six home runs and 34 stolen bases to boot. Despite the Royals infield logjam with Lopez, Garcia, Michael Massey, and Matt Duffy, the Royals opted to bring him up to give the club a jolt, especially in the wake of Vinnie Pasquantino’s season-ending injury announcement earlier this week.
Safe to say, Taylor provided that jolt on Saturday for a club that was desperate for a win after seeing the Oakland Athletics pass them in the win column this week.
One has to wonder what else he has in store for the Royals this season.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Brandon Drury (LAA): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Drury appeared as if he was going to beat the Royals himself on Saturday until the Royals’ dramatic comeback in the later innings. The 30-year-old Angels utility player hit two home runs and collected three RBI on Saturday, which was a nice follow-up performance from the two-hit, two-RBI night he had against the Royals on Friday. With five hits in this series so far, it’s likely that Drury could finish with another big day in the series finale Sunday in Kansas City.
Jose Altuve (HOU): 4-4, 2 2B, HR, R, RBI, SB.
Injuries have plagued Altuve this year, as he has only played in 20 games this season. However, when healthy, Altuve has looked as good as ever. In 91 plate appearances, he is hitting .278 with three home runs, eight RBI, and four stolen bases. The Astros sit 4.5 games behind the division-leading Texas Rangers as of Sunday. If they want to surpass their in-state rival in the AL West, they will need a healthy Altuve to do so.
Orlando Arcia (ATL): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB.
Is Arcia a legitimate All-Star case, even if he doesn’t have that big name like Francisco Lindor or Xander Bogaerts? He is currently hitting .339 with six home runs and a stolen base in 191 plate appearances, and he is one of the best defensive shortstops in the National League, as he ranks in the 92nd percentile in OAA. Plus, he is playing for an Atlanta team that is comfortably in first place in a loaded NL East division. Thus, Arcia has earned the title of being the leading vote-getter at shortstop in the National League, as of June 12th.
Carlos Pérez (OAK): 3-5, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Journeymen having surprising seasons at the plate has been a theme this year in Oakland and Pérez is no exception. The 32-year-old catcher is having a solid year for the Athletics despite his last stint with an MLB team coming in 2018 with Texas and Atlanta. As of Sunday, he is hitting .248 with four home runs and 14 RBI in 113 plate appearances this season. That isn’t bad for a backup catcher who hasn’t been in the big leagues in nearly five years.
Luis Matos (SF): 2-3, 4 R, 2 BB, SB.
The Giants haven’t had great debuts from heralded prospects in their system over the past couple of years, as evidenced by the underwhelming performances of Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos. Matos may be the exception though. Not only did he collect two hits, four runs, and a stolen base in the Giants’ 15-0 drubbing of the hated Dodgers, but he is also hitting .375 in 13 plate appearances overall since being called up. The lackluster exit velocity (81.6 mph average EV) is concerning, but he is only 21 years old, and hopefully, the power will catch up to his contact ability as he matures more at the Major League level.
Joey Wiemer (MIL): 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.
The Brewers caught a reeling Pittsburgh team at the right time, as the Pirates are now under .500 and the Brewers have jumped them in the NL Central standings (though the Reds are only 0.5 games behind). The rookie Wiemer had a nice day for the Brew Crew in their 5-0 win, highlighted by the two-run home run he hit off Mitch Keller. The average isn’t good at .215, but he has hit 10 home runs and stolen 10 bases this season, making him a sneaky 20 HR-20 SB candidate in deep leagues.
Jake McCarthy (ARI): 1-3, HR, R, RBI.
A draft season darling, it’s been a rollercoaster of a season for McCarthy. It’s been highlighted by a slow start and demotion to Triple-A in late April. A month later, the Diamondbacks called him up and the results thankfully have been more encouraging. He posted a .389 average in 20 plate appearances in May, and is currently hitting .292 with a home run and eight runs scored in 53 plate appearances in June. Since being called back up, he also has stolen 12 bases in 12 attempts. It took a while, but it seems like the McCarthy hype was justified.
Matt McLain (CIN): 2-5, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
Elly De La Cruz has gotten all the hype, but McLain has arguably been the more productive rookie in Cincinnati. McLain is hitting .328 with three home runs and three stolen bases in 142 plate appearances. He consistently makes hard contact, as evidenced by his 10.9% barrel rate and 41.3% hard-hit rate. He doesn’t have a big sample on a fielding end, but OAA data shows him being solid at second with a +1 mark so far. Is Elly the better long-term play? Of course, but there’s a lot to like about McLain and what he brings to this surging Reds squad.
Zach Remillard (CWS): 3-3, 2 RBI, BB.
Taylor wasn’t the only rookie making his debut who had a game-winning hit, as second-baseman Remillard drove in the game-winning RBI in the top of the ninth off of Seattle’s Tayler Saucedo. Remillard replaced Tim Anderson, who left the game due to shoulder soreness, and made the most of his unexpected MLB debut, collecting three hits and a walk against the Mariners. A fellow 10th-round pick in the 2016 draft (like Taylor), Remillard is a non-prospect who has never been ranked in Baseball America’s White Sox Top 30 at any point in his professional career. That said, the White Sox have struggled to find production at the keystone in 2023, so it may be worth it for manager Pedro Grifol to give Remillard a shot.
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)