Pirates sign Michael A. Taylor to cover center field
This one is the boldest, as there are much fewer rumors or updated news regarding the Pirates' interest in Michael A. Taylor. But the team had been connected to him earlier this off-season. The Pirates would benefit from signing another outfielder, especially one who can play center field, and Taylor plays a great center field.
Last season, Taylor had +5 defensive runs saved, +8 outs above average, and +0.9 defensive WAR in 960 innings up the middle. Believe it or not, but this was a down year by Taylor's typical standards. In 2021-2022, he had +38 DRS, with +19 each season. He also had +23 OAA with +18 coming in 2021, which is the 6th most any center fielder has had in a single season. He also had nearly +5.0 defensive WAR.
Taylor's defense comes from a lot of facets. The first is that he has great range. On average, Taylor was in the 87th percentile of sprint speed at 28.7 feet/second. The other is his arm strength. His throws averaged 91.5 MPH from the outfield, the 11th most by any center fielder. He was one of just 48 outfielders whose throws averaged 90+ MPH.
Taylor's defense is his calling card by far, but his bat is playable. In 388 plate appearances, Taylor slashed .220/.278/.442 with a .308 wOBA and 96 wRC+. Taylor had 21 home runs last year, and his .223 isolated slugging percentage was the best among any primary CF with at least 350 plate appearances. Taylor's 6.7% walk rate was below average but not atypical for him. However, his 33.5% K-rate was a career-worst unless you count 2014 or 2019, both seasons in which he had less than 100 PAs.
Taylor could also help offset some of the platoon issues that Jack Suwinski faces. Taylor had a .914 OPS, .380 wOBA, and 146 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. It was only a sample size of 112 plate appearances, but he is typically a solid batter vs Southpaws. Taylor did have an above-average .171 ISO against right-handers but ended up only having a 75 wRC+ when facing same-handed pitching.
Taylor also posted a career-best 13.5% barrel rate, which is also the first time he's ever peaked over 10%. That also was the 4th best among any centerfielder in 2023. The only ones with a higher barrel rate? Mike Trout, Jack Suwinski, and Luis Robert Jr. That's a massive improvement from 2021-2022 when he sat below 7% in both seasons. Taylor saw his launch angle rise by 1.3 degrees between 2022 and 2023, helping him hit more flyballs. He also went to his pull side 42.8% of the time, compared to 38% in '21 and '22.
The only concern would be how Taylor's pull-side power would play in PNC Park. Target Field is about average in terms of home run park factor, while PNC is much less home run friendly. Although PNC is shorter down the line than Target Field, the left field wall is slightly deeper by about six feet. Though the deepest part of PNC (left center) is still shallower than the deepest part of Target (center field), and PNC's center field is much more in, by about a dozen feet.
But I'd still take 18 home runs and a 90 wRC+ from Taylor with his defense in center field. Taylor's defense alone makes him a valuable center fielder, at least in a platoon capacity. Given he can hit a little would make him a regular for most teams.