If you are reading this, I imagine there’s a chance that, like me, you noticed that the Mariners have an outfielder who is not Ian Miller, but is slashing .320/.422/.491 and was just announced as a Texas League All-Star. Said outfielder is Chuck Taylor, a switch-hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder who the Mariners plucked out of the Arizona Diamondbacks system back in early December in the Rule 5 Draft. Taylor was drafted by the D-Backs as a high schooler in the fourth round back in 2012, and has been a roughly league average hitter at every stop since, topping out at Double-A last year, where he posted a wRC+ of 92 through 41 games. Taylor--whose Fangraphs page lists him as 5’9” and 190lb-- is repeating the Double-A level this season, and it’s safe to say his new organization has been pleasantly surprised by his current mark of 151 wRC+ through 57 games. If you tried digging up some articles about Chuck Taylor, you probably found next to nothing. Well, until now that is. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the Mariners’ shiny new toy for an interview, thanks to Arkansas Travelers broadcaster and “The Voice of the Travs” Steven Davis.
Ben Thoen: I don’t know if you’re aware of this or if you like it this way but you’re kind of a ghost online; it’s hard to find much information about you.
Chuck Taylor: *Laughs* Yeah man I don’t got no social media stuff. I just kinda stay low key, y’know?
BT: So if I recall right, you had grown up in Arlington, is that right?
CT: Yeah. Yeah I was born in Corpus Christi and moved to Arlington in high school.
BT: So were you a Rangers fan growing up, or were you really a baseball fan at all?
CT: Yeah I was a Rangers fan. That was my squad.
BT: Was there a player you really loved or modeled your game after or anything?
CT: Growing up, it was always Bonds. I liked the Rangers, but Bonds was the guy.
BT: One thing I wanted to ask you that a bunch of our readers were wanting to ask and I’m sure you get all the time is about your name. Is “Chuck Taylor” actually your birth given name?
CT: Real name is Charles. I’ve been called “Chuck” since high school so it kinda just stuck.
BT: So you rock Chuck Taylors a lot then?
Note: I gritted my teeth through asking him this questions but, as you see, I kind of had to.
CT: I have them in the closet at home. I used to wear them but it kinda got played out, y’know? Kinda cliche, so I’m like, alright, I’m done with that phase. I still got all the colors. I got too many. But I don’t rock ‘em no more.
BT: So you guys are based in Little Rock, is that right?
BT: How’s life there?
CT: Aw, it’s not bad. Little city.
BT: What do you do on your days off?
CT: Days off I just chill. Go find somewhere to eat good and just kick it. Do as little as possible.
BT: It seems like every Mariners minor leaguer we talk to has an affinity for Chick-Fil-A.
CT: Oh yeah. That’s the go-to spot right there. That’s the go-to.
BT: So I’m sure you get a lot of questions about baseball and we’ll get into that in a second here, but I was wondering if you have any memorable non-baseball sports performances growing up?
CT: I was pretty good in high school in football. Senior year I had a nice little year. Threw for 2,000 yards. Ran for 2,000 yards.
BT: Were you recruited for football?
CT: I wasn’t. I was kinda bummed out about that. I was pretty good. Put up 30 TD’s senior year.
BT: So was football your first love?
CT: Yeah. Football is my first love.
(Here’s a video of Chuck playing football. I can confirm he appears to have been very fast/good.)
BT: So if you’re from Texas, who would you be a fan of down there then?
Editor’s note: I was completely in baseball mode, and for some reason the only Texas-based football team that immediately came to mind was the Houston Texans. Chuck proceeded to answer this next question like I was a total idiot, which was probably justified.
CT: Who you think? Cowboys.
BT: Do you really follow stats much? Like, do you pay much attention to that or do you just kinda go out and do your thing?
CT: Umm...yeah. I mean everybody follows stats. I look at ‘em. I don’t try to get wrapped up in ‘em but I look at ‘em.
BT: So are you aware that you’re currently leading the Texas League in hitting? *Note: He’s dropped to sixth between interviewing him and writing this*
CT: Yeah, I’m aware.
BT: Do you know who’s second?
CT: Ian. We got a little thing going. He’s tryin’ to get me.
BT: You guys got anything on the line, or just bragging rights?
CT: Nah. Yesterday after the game we kinda looked at each other like, “alright. Here we go.” And today, I don’t know, maybe I’ll put something on the line. Get a little wager goin’. Make it a little fun, y’know?
BT: So, kinda speaking to that, you’re pretty much setting career highs in all of your offensive categories this year, so I was wondering, have you really made a mechanical change or changes in your plate approach or anything? Or are things just kinda panning out?
CT: Not really. No big changes, y’know? I just...I really haven’t made no changes. I’m just seeing it better and swinging at better pitches and getting better results, y’know?
BT: Have you really felt like anything’s changed with your approach since changing organizations, coming over here?
CT: Not really. Hitting is kinda universal, y’know? You want the same little approach. Drive the ball right back up the middle. You know, it was kinda the same with Diamondbacks as with these guys. They have the same little philosophies.
BT: You’re walking like, twice as much as you were last year at Double-A. Has it been helpful for you to repeat this level this year?
CT: Yeah, yeah. I guess so. Last year I really didn’t play every game at Double-A. So, I mean, I wasn’t really getting regular AB’s, so coming off the bench pinch hitting and stuff. You get up there and swing it. I don’t know. Here I kinda just keep the same mindset I’ve always had. I ain’t really changed nothing.
BT: If you don’t mind me asking, what is that mindset? You try to kinda play to your strengths and slap it around?
CT: Yeah. I just try to drive it up the middle and see some pitches. Make them work. Make them pitch to me. I don’t really worry about what he got. I just worry about swinging at good pitches, y’know? Staying through. Staying up the middle. Nothing crazy.
[Note: Taylor’s .327 batting average is inflated a bit by a .380 BABIP, and is 36 point increase over his previous career high. Despite not being much of a stolen base threat—his career high is 16 through 52 games in his debut season back in 2012—Taylor is relatively fleet-footed and has shown an ability to sustain high BABIP’s through his minor league career. That said, his .380 mark he’s currently running will likely regress a bit, but it doesn’t appear to simply be a product of his home ballpark. Dickey-Stephens Park, where the Travs play their home games, has suppressed hits more than any other stadium in the last three years.
BT: Is there anyone within the Mariners organization or the D-Backs that you would point out that really kinda helped you along with your development as a player?
CT: A manager I had, J.R. House, he was a good manager. I liked how he managed. He kinda got me to in to my real work ethic. Before, I kinda took it for granted sometimes, but when I played for him, he was all about getting your work done and I really learned how to have a routine and how to get ready for a day. There’s no days off really. You really gotta grind. And he really showed me how to get work done and how to prepare.
BT: What point in your life did you pick up switch-hitting?
CT: High school. My sophomore year I switched to lefty. I was a natural righty.
BT: Have you always played center, or have you bounced around growing up?
CT: Growing up I was always center, but ever since pro ball I’ve been playing every position in the outfield.
BT: Do you have one you’re most comfortable at?
CT: Center. I’m real comfortable in center. Left you get all them funky balls.
BT: Have you really be in touch with anyone in the organization that’s sort of explained a specific role they see you fulfilling, or are they just kinda letting you do your thing?
CT: Nah, I haven’t talked to anybody. I’m just playing, man. Just kinda do what I can do. Worry about what I can control.
BT: Have you faced anyone that was rehabbing or anything that’s up in the bigs right now?
CT: Let me think...Last year I faced, what’s his name? McCarthy? Brandon McCarthy? Yeah, took him deep.
BT: How about playing football? You ever play with or against any guys that made it in football?
CT: Josh Doctson. A receiver. He’s older than me. I played him when I was like, a sophomore. He’s pretty good.
BT: Have you noticed any differences in the coaching philosophies over in Arizona and since you’ve been in Seattle?
CT: Not really. It’s kinda the same. Baseball’s kinda universal, y’know? Especially during the season. They’re big on getting your work done. Same as the D-Backs. They’re big on “do what you gotta do to prepare”. You prepare right, and you go out there and play, and play hard and they’re not gonna say much to you. It’s all the same though. They just want you to be prepared.
BT: Last thing I was gonna ask you then is if you have a favorite ballpark to play in in the Texas League?
CT: Frisco. Yeah Frisco is nice, it’s real nice. I love Frisco.
This interview was done back on Monday, and thank goodness I waited to write this up until now (Thursday night/early Friday morning) because my procrastination has been rewarded with this excellent quality video of Chuck Taylor at-bats compiled over the course of the last couple of weeks.
And if you were hoping to get a shot of Taylor from a normal baseball-viewing angle, here he is swatting a triple back in 2015.
All of that said, none of this matters because I ruined my new favorite prospect. Since our interview, Chuck is 1-20 with seven strikeouts. Sorry Mariners fans.
You can click here to listen to the full length interview.