GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chis Taylor will tell you – the swing that lifted him out of the minor leagues, made him an All-Star in 2021 and got him a four-year, $60 million contract from the Dodgers is not “my natural swing.”
His natural swing wasn’t suited for the 21st century major leagues. Working with hitting guru Craig Wollenbrock and his protegee, current Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc, Taylor overhauled his swing, adding a leg kick, an uppercut and more aggression.
The resulting version has more moving parts. And those parts have not been moving in sync for some time now.
Taylor hit just .221 last season with the second-highest strikeout rate (35.4%) of any player with at least 400 plate appearances. Only Joey Gallo had a higher rate. Taylor missed on 39.9% of his swings last season – only two players with at least 250 plate appearances had higher whiff rates last season (Gallo at 40.6 and Milwaukee’s Keston Hiura at 40.1).
The problem has persisted into spring training, where Taylor has started 3 for 26 with 10 strikeouts in Cactus League play.
“With CT, we all know how hard he works, how much he’s going to grind and compete. Right now he just seems out of whack,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “That’s what spring training is for. There’s nothing that says you’ve got to be locked in right now. We’ve got plenty of time. But right now he just seems a little out of whack.”
There were clear reasons for Taylor to be “out of whack” last season. He underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow in November 2021 and faced more physical challenges during the 2022 season – a fracture in his left foot in July and a nagging neck injury.
Taylor dismissed injuries as an explanation for his down year last season, saying “I’m 100 percent now.” But Roberts offers “a recalibration of the body” as Taylor’s challenge this spring.
“I think I’ll make the excuses for him, in the sense of, last year, I just feel last year was an outlier of a season, I really do,” Roberts said. “I think the body of work over the last four out of five years has been consistent and I just think that last year, he was not himself.
“Right now, I’m gonna let the process with Chris and the hitting coaches play out. But I have no problem betting on the player, the person.”
Taylor was one of several Dodgers who spent time at the high-tech Driveline facility in Washington state during the offseason where he got feedback on his swing.
“I think going there for a day and hearing what they have to say was some valuable information. If you’re not taking advantage of all the resources given to you, what are you really doing?” Taylor said earlier this spring. “I think it’s important to be open-minded. Some of this new stuff that we’re adopting in the game is obviously working and helping a lot of players. It would be very stubborn to not give it a shot.”
Taylor said he learned about a weighted-bat program to improve bat speed (as did the other Dodgers visitors) but his focus once he reported to spring training was on trying “to be more efficient with your swing.”
“I needed to clean up some of my moves and be more efficient with my moves more so than bat speed right now,” Taylor said.
“It’s something I’ve been working with the hitting coaches on. I don’t want to go into too much detail. Just trying to be more efficient. When I’m feeling good, I can cover the four-seam fastball and take that pitch to the opposite field and that kind of opens everything up for me.”
Veteran reliever Daniel Hudson threw to hitters for the second time this spring on Monday. The 36-year-old acknowledged some frustration with the pace of progress in his recovery from surgery for a torn ACL last summer.
“Yeah – but it is what it is. I’m 36. I’m not 26 anymore,” he said. “That’s just part of getting a little older and the rehab process taking a little longer and bouncing back and stuff like that. It’s definitely been frustrating. At the same time, I’m trying to keep my eyes on the bigger prize of being available towards the end of the season rather than potentially April 1.”
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Hudson said he has just been dealing with “whole-body, general soreness” from the increased activity in workouts.
“It’s just trying to get the reps again, get the body moving like a baseball player again,” he said.
Hudson said he has not ruled out being ready to open the season on the Dodgers’ active roster.
“I haven’t. I’m still pushing for it,” Hudson said. “But we’ll see where we’re at in a couple weeks and go from there.”
The Dodgers made their second round of cuts this spring following Monday’s game. Diego Cartaya, Michael Busch, Jorbit Vivas, Eddys Leonard, Jonny Deluca, Andy Pages, Matt Andriese, Bobby Miller and Jahmai Jones were assigned to minor-league camp. …
Right-hander Jordan Yamamoto announced his retirement on social media on Monday. Yamamoto, 26, was in the Dodgers’ camp as a non-roster invitee before being re-assigned to minor-league camp last week. He had an 8-12 record with a 6.05 ERA in 36 big-league games with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets.