This year’s Mariners roster featured, at various times: two Kyles; two Austins; two Tims and a Tom; three Matts; two Davids, two Dans, a Dylan and a Dee; a Ryan and a Ryon; and a Taylor and a Tayler. Somewhere along the line, Taylor Guilbeau’s name became fastened in my brain as Austin, and can you blame me? You can not. There are three pictures of Taylor Guilbeau in our USA Today photo tool, and this is one of them:
That picture is mostly useful in reminding me about Taylor Guilbeau’s major defining physical characteristic, which is his hair (flow, lettuce, call it what you wish). He’s also 6’4”, which is on the taller-ish side, although not extremely so. And he has tattoos, but they’re generally covered by his baseball sleeves. He is left-handed, although has run reverse splits throughout his career. He also seems to believe an Instagram caption isn’t done until it has an exclamation point. He came to Seattle from the Nationals in the Roenis Elias/Hunter Strickland trade, and probably could have helped that team out in their World Series push more than either of those two pitchers. End my list of information about Taylor Guilbeau.
While with the Nationals, Guilbeau posted fine FIP numbers—low to mid-3s—and had some decent (25%-30%) K numbers as a reliever, but, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, had some control problems, and became a little less effective as he worked into the upper minors. Obviously all Triple-A data from this year should be fired into deepest space, but Guilbeau struggled with walks at Triple-A after being zoomed pretty quickly past Double-A in the Nats’ system; he has 35 career Double-A innings, which seems like...not enough, although he did pitch in the Arizona Fall League in 2018, where he struck out seven batters in 10+ innings, but also walked six.
Guilbeau’s primary pitch is a 94-96 mph sinking fastball, which results in a ton of ground balls; he’s had a GB% of well over 50% throughout his career. He also throws a slider (84-86 mph) with some hard cutting action that he struggles to control. The changeup is Guilbeau’s main secondary pitch, which he threw 30% of the time in his big-league audition. As Andrew McQ pointed out in the comments the other day, the Mariners have gone heavily after pitchers with changeups, and Guilbeau fits that mold. Guilbeau’s changeup is currently maybe a little firmer than ideal, clocking in at about 88 mph, but it also has below-average spin. His slider also has a lower spin rate than average, but with each of them just about 4 RPM slower than average, it’s not enough of a separator to make the pitches truly deceptive.
For deception, Guilbeau relies on lower lefty arm slot and a funky delivery with a lot of moving parts that might be contributing to his command issues. Look at how weakly he comes down on his front leg in this footage from the AFL. The front foot doesn’t strike-and-stick but rather wobbles and pivots, and he’s not strong through his front leg. On the follow-through, the back leg kicks up wildly and he lands in a poor position for fielding.
To his credit, that’s something Guilbeau has immediately improved on since becoming a Mariner. I can’t embed because MLB loves to make their visuals as useless as possible but if you click here you can see Guilbeau throwing pitches and see the improved foot strike. Perhaps ironing out some of these mechanical issues can help improve Guilbeau’s command, but there’s also work to do on the pitch shapes themselves, specifically giving the slider, which can get slurvy with more 12-6 action, more tilt, and differentiating that from the changeup, which could use more depth and a sharper break.
After the trade which sent Guilbeau and fellow pitchers Aaron Fletcher and Elvis Alvarado to the Mariners, MLB Pipeline slotted Guilbeau in at 22 and Aaron Fletcher at 27 in the Mariners’ system; they had been #s 15 and 21, respectively, for the Nats. Guilbeau’s proximity to the big leagues and performance in the AFL, where he showed off his mid-90s fastball for the first time, resulted in him being ranked higher, but it might well be the other lefty, the 22-year-old Fletcher, who has the better career as a Mariner. I saw Fletcher a couple times in the AFL this year and was impressed by everything from his mound presence to his pure stuff. Fletcher works with a fastball at 94-95 and a truly disgusting low-velo slider (82-83) that had AFL batters fooled. The 2018 draftee was a quick riser this year, shooting from A ball all the way to Double-A, and found success at every stop. In 9.1 innings in the AFL this year he struck out 15, walking just one. While Guilbeau and Alvarado are fine pitchers in their own right, my gut feeling is this will be the Aaron Fletcher trade.