The 2021 MLB Draft begins on July 11, 2021, and unlike in 2020, this will be a twenty round draft — shorter than the forty rounds the draft has been in the most recent years prior to 2020, but longer than last year’s five round version. The Rangers’ top three picks are at #2, #38, and #73.
In the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks, looking both at players who are in the mix at #2 and players who would be candidates to be picked in the second or third rounds. Today we are looking at Irmo, South Carolina, high school outfielder Will Taylor.
Will Taylor is a 6’0”, 175 lb. righthanded hitting and throwing outfielder out of Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, South Carolina, a suburb of Columbia, South Carolina. Taylor is a multi-sport athlete — along with baseball, he is a state champion high school quarterback who is committed to Clemson for both football and baseball (though he would be a wide receiver rather than a QB at the college level), and he is a three-time state champion wrestler, as well.
I know what you’re thinking — this isn’t 2017, AJM! The Rangers don’t go after these tooled-up multi-sport guys who they think they can teach to hit anymore! And that’s true...but Taylor isn’t the raw, projectable five tool type with a questionable hit tool we usually think of when we think of these guys. Taylor has a quality hit tool — he has a 55 hit on BA and 50 on MLB Pipeline — earning praise for his bat speed and bat-to-ball ability.
Taylor’s highest graded tool is his speed, with both BA and MLB Pipeline putting a 70 grade on that. The speed and his arm, which grades out above average, make him a true center fielder, someone with the potential to be a well above average defender in center.
The knock on Taylor is his lack of power. He is a line drive hitter, and while he gets praise for his ability to make good contact against both velocity and breaking pitches, he doesn’t have much present power. There is skepticism that, absent a significant change in his swing or him filling out significantly, Taylor will hit for much power going forward, but as a speedy quality defensive center fielder with a good hit tool, he still has value even if he doesn’t have a ton of pop.
Baseball America has Taylor at #26 on their current top 500 draft list. MLB Pipeline has Taylor at #20 on their board. Over at ESPN Kiley McDaniel has Taylor at #14 on his current board. Fangraphs has Taylor at #29 on their board. Keith Law has Taylor at #15 on his board.
Jonathan Mayo’s latest mock draft doesn’t have Taylor going in the first round, though he mentions him as a possibility as high as #12. Jim Callis’s latest mock draft has Taylor going to the San Diego Padres at #27, though he’s mentioned as in the mix for most of the teams at the end of the first round. Kiley McDaniel’s most recent mock draft has him going to the San Francisco Giants at #14. Baseball America has Taylor going to the Anaheim Angels at #9, while Keith Law has Taylor going at #21 to the Chicago Cubs, and also mentions him as a possibility for the Padres at #27. Fangraphs does not have Taylor on their mock.
I debated whether to do a write up on Taylor, as he is getting a lot of late run and could be off the board well before the Rangers pick at #38. That said, there is always uncertainty in the MLB Draft, and there seems to be more uncertainty this year than usual, with a lot of variability in players and how they are ranked after the top tier goes off the board.
There’s also the complication that Taylor is committed to play both football and baseball at Clemson, and has reportedly enrolled already (although apparently a player who enrolls early is still eligible for the MLB Draft until the fall semester starts). Taylor is someone who could drop some because of signability concerns combined with the teams that are highest on him having someone else they go with when their pick comes around, so its possible he ends up still around at #38.
Taylor would likely require a well above slot deal from the Rangers, and as we have mentioned with some other players, the extent to which he is viewed as an option at #38 would depend on the overall strategy for their draft and what they do at #2. If the Rangers were to take, for example, Kahlil Watson at #2 and sign him for a good amount under slot, they could offer Taylor mid- to late-first round money in an effort to try to get him to fall to #38 and to get him to sign with them there. If the Rangers go full slot, or close to full slot, at #2 — say, if they take Jack Leiter — or if they want to go below slot with someone like Robert Gasser at #38 in order to splurge on later picks, then Taylor wouldn’t be a fit.