Royals' Taylor off to sensational start in outfield

Pete Grathoff
The Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kansas City Royals center fielder Michael A. Taylor catches a fly ball during the fourth inning Monday against the Rays  in Kansas City, Mo.

Baseball fans know that a fast start to the season at the plate doesn't guarantee sustained success over a 162-game season.

But can the same be said for defense?

It's a question worth asking because advanced stats show the Royals' Michael A. Taylor has been the best defensive center fielder in the majors.

Among center fielders with at least 100 innings played this season, Taylor already has seven defensive runs saved. The Nationals' Victor Robles is second with two defensive runs saved and five others have 1.

Taylor is also well ahead of the field in another metric, Ultimate Zone Rating. He is first in baseball with 2.4 runs saved, while the Mariners' Taylor Trammell is second at 1.4.

Only seven players are above zero this season. Range Runs, which shows when a player is able to get to more balls than an average fielder, shows Taylor at 1.2. That's second to Luis Robert of the White Sox (1.4). Royals manager Mike Matheny said he talked with general manager Dayton Moore earlier this week about Taylor's fielding prowess.

"I told this to Dayton (on Tuesday) after the game: He has patrolled this outfield as well as, you know, I can't say that I was here to watch some of the legendary guys at The K, but as good as I could ever expect," Matheny said. "Going back and finding the track, having a feel for the wall, but understanding he's got a lot of room. His first steps have been very accurate. He's got really natural instincts, he's got aggressive instincts.

"So I'm real, real pleased with how Michael's going about it in the outfield. And we talked before about the throws, too. That to me, I've watched him play a lot, I'm seeing another level from his arm right now. So the league is seeing that too, and this guy is doing a really nice job here."

Taylor is tied with Robles for the most outfield assists by a center fielder (two) and is one of five at that position to start a double play. Baseball Reference shows Taylor is tied for the third-most putouts by a center fielder (42).

He is also well ahead in Baseball Reference's Defensive Runs Saved Above Average with seven. Robles and the Phillies Mickey Moniak are second with two.

Matheny said he often will check Statcast after a game to get a breakdown on Taylor's catches.

"I think the Statcast stuff was really helpful to see that (when) there was a small percentage catch he just made, he was kind of sitting there waiting on it," Matheny said. "And, yeah I would say there are certain players that make it look easier than others."