After a quiet first half to the offseason, the Twins have exploded onto the market in the new year. This trade is the second in just a week for the Twins, shipping off Luis Arraez to the Miami Marlins for Pablo López and Ronnie Gajownik.
The Minnesota Twins are acquiring centerfielder Michael A. Taylor in a trade with the Kansas City Royals, sources tell me and @kileymcd.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 23, 2023
Michael A. Taylor’s Quiet Production
Michael A. Taylor derives most of his production from his defense. Taylor ranked in the 88th percentile in Outs Above Average in 2022, a step back from previous seasons. In 2021, Taylor ranked in the 99th percentile with 17 Outs Above Average. This ability to patrol the outfield is mostly due to Taylor’s elite speed and jump. With a sprint speed in the 86th percentile and a jump that allows him to cover an entire foot over the average outfielder, Taylor can nab fly balls despite a mediocre route and reaction rating. His speed, in conjunction with elite arm strength, allows Taylor to not only track down fly balls but also halt runners looking to advance. Though Taylor will undoubtedly provide value in the outfield, the roster flexibility he gives the Twins might be even more valuable.
Byron Buxton’s combination of power and speed makes him one of the most versatile and valuable center fielders in the game. However, his vulnerability to serious injury often leaves gaps in the Minnesota outfield. In the event of injury, Taylor can plug in at center until Buxton returns. Taylor’s defense allows the Twins to put Buxton at DH to manage his playing load. Furthermore, Taylor could also plug in at left field if the Twins decide to trade Max Kepler.
The unfortunate downside to Michael A. Taylor is his hitting. In his entire career, Taylor has only accumulated an OPS+ above 100 a single time. However, the 2022 season saw significant improvement in Taylor’s usual offensive production. This past season, Taylor hit an OPS+ of 90, the second-highest of his career. While this production is still below league average, this improved hitting combined with an elite defense made Taylor a surprisingly valuable player. Taylor’s 3.2 WAR in 2022 was a career-high, beating out players like Gio Urshela, Bryan Reynolds, and Josh Bell.
Ultimately, Taylor is a player that provides a very quiet form of production. If Taylor can continue to play defense at an elite level and maintain his improvements on the offensive side, he will be a welcome addition for the Twins as they set themselves up for contention.
The Royal’s Return Pieces
Steven Cruz and Evan Fisk were in the Twins’ minor league system. Cruz ranked within the top 40 of Twins prospects and played for the organization’s Double-A, the Wichita Wind Surge, throughout 2022. Cruz is a powerful 6’7” 225-pound right-hander and uses his size to throw an elite fastball. His fastball is a 70-grade pitch on his prospect report and averaged 97 miles per hour in 2021. However, he lacks a reliable second pitch, with his slider coming in with a below-average 45-pitch grade. Cruz also struggles significantly with command, as his 13.6% walk percentage in 2022 is a factor that led to a disappointing 5.14 ERA in 46 games. This ERA, however, may be partially inflated. Cruz’s BABIP of .350 and his FIP of 4.15 suggest that factors other than pitching ability negatively impacted his ERA.
Evan Sisk is a 25-year-old left-handed pitcher who recently dominated on both the Double-A and Triple-A levels. Sisk started the 2022 season in AA and scorched the competition with a .95 ERA in 28 innings. Sisk finished the season on the Triple-A St. Paul with a 2.09 ERA throughout 34 innings. His success comes from his high K/9 and impressive HR/9, only surrendering two home runs throughout 2022. Like Cruz, however, Sisk’s ERA may not be entirely representative of his performance. The extremely low BABIP hitters had against Sisk throughout 2022 suggests a level of luck that benefited Sisk.
While the Royals will have to continue to develop these pitchers, both Sisk and Cruz look like promising pieces for a team that continues to rebuild.