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40 in 40: Tayler Saucedo is in the right place

The secret is in the sauce.

Los Angeles Angels v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

On January 31st of this year when the Seattle Mariners claimed Tayler Saucedo off waivers from the New York Mets, it was more than just a homecoming for the left-handed reliever who is a Tahoma High School varsity product. It is also a chance for him to continue and grow on his success in professional baseball, which began with rookie ball in 2015 in the Toronto Blue Jays organization where he remained, finally culminating in brief appearances at the big league level in 2021 and 2022, before they released him at the beginning of this offseason.

I say that Saucedo can continue his success here, but that ultimately depends on your definition of success. Success is something that ultimately cannot be truly, objectively measured, even in sports, even in baseball, where we have an extremely deep set of tools for measuring various kinds of outcomes. At least it can’t in a way that is standardized in a universal way. This is because on an individual level we all have different standards for what we see as successful, and it can vary greatly between each player depending on a variety of factors including the player’s position, the player’s age and previous experience, and even our initial expectations of a player.

There is also the player’s definition of success to consider. Sometimes the greatest challenges to overcome are off the field, and one Saucedo has spoken about in regards to his own mental health struggles and advocacy. In that article he talked about wanting to take on a role of helping others and being a resource for them when they have similar challenges. There is no guarantee that Tayler will fit in with Seattle’s team chemistry, but with his open approach to helping and listening to others, it is easy to see the possibility there. His selfless approach also applies to his outlook on the field as well. From that same article:

While the outlook as a whole is commendable in its humbleness, one of the key parts included is “earn a spot”. Saucedo has shown a willingness in the past to put in the work to get better, including during the 2020 season when minor league games were cancelled and he didn’t have live games to continue his development in. Instead, he turned to a name Mariners fans have heard a lot this offseason: Driveline Baseball.

Driveline also highlighted the good results from his primary pitch in the 2021 season, a one-seam sinker, and his use of his secondary pitches as well. (With guest appearance from Seattle’s own Taylor Trammell).

The 2021 season was the year of his Major League debut, and there were some promising results in his 25.2 innings pitched across twenty nine games. His strikeout rate was on the lower end at 17.4%, against a walk rate of 9.2%, but he mostly did well as a contact manager. As mentioned above his 60.3% ground ball rate was good for being in the ninety-seventh percentile (11th overall) of relievers with a minimum of twenty innings, and his home run per fly ball rate of 5.6% was good for being in the eighty-ninth percentile (37th overall) in the same group. He ultimately ended the year with an ERA- just a notch below average at 101, and a respectable FIP- of 85. He would have looked to try and improve on those numbers in the 2022 season, but after only 2.2 innings across four games, that plan was sidelined by injury. He was removed from a game with hip discomfort April 29th, and was out until June 14th when he began a rehab assignment and for the rest of the season only made sporadic appearances across twenty innings in twenty minor league games, with mixed results as he tried to get back to fully healthy status. During that time he posted a 34.1% strikeout rate, a 12.2% walk rate, and a FIP of 3.14.

After seven years of pro ball the twenty nine year old Taylor Saucedo finds himself at a crossroads of sorts. He has experienced setbacks off the field, somewhat mixed results in his MLB debut, and last season injury that caused him to miss a lot of time. And yet, he has persevered, and remains focused on his goals. He has plus pitches and a versatile arsenal, and now is aided by one of the best pitching development systems in all of baseball. It still remains to be seen if he makes the big league club, and I suspect how he performs in spring will give us a better idea of that, but he is at the least on equal footing with the other left handers on the 40-man in Brennan Bernardino and Gabe Speier who are similarly limited in their big league experience, and similarly have minor league options available. (Saucedo and Bernardino each have two, Speier has one). In many ways Saucedo has already been successful by many metrics, but he still remains committed to continuing to grow that success, and personally I’m penciling him in as a breakout candidate. He may not be likely to reach lights out status akin to the headliners in Seattle’s bullpen, but he still can be a significant piece. Whether it is Seattle’s development system, the fact he is playing for his home town team, his willingness to put in the work, or a combination of all of that, he is in the right place this year to give himself a shot. If you have your doubts, that’s perfectly fine and understandable, but you may only be adding fuel to his fire.