3rd place: Blake Taylor
Blake Taylor, 24, was drafted by the Pirates during the 2nd round in 2013. Following a trade just a year later, he spent the next six seasons in the minors for the New York Mets, before being dealt to the Astros several months ago.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound grinder faced highs and lows throughout his playing career. For instance, he didn’t make his varsity baseball team until he was a high school senior, and then wound up getting drafted 57th overall, just a year removed from playing junior varsity. In his early minor league career, he showed flashes but also struggled in part due to injury. At present, Taylor appears to be the beneficiary of a successful ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery, now in his rearview mirror.
Last season, Taylor spent time between multiple levels of minor league play, and turned in a stellar 1.85 ERA after 18 appearances in Double-A, earning him a promotion to finish the season for the Triple-A Syracuse Mets. Following his lone Triple-A outing where he faced and retired one batter, Taylor pitched in the month-long Arizona Fall League.
In seven games of relief for the Scottsdale Scorpions, he faced 34 batters, gave up two runs, surrendered two walks, and struck out 11. However, what particularly stands out from Taylor’s time in Arizona is his dominant sub-one WHIP of .778, and his opponents’ collective batting average of .156.
Taylor, a starter converted to a reliever, stands a very good chance of beginning the season with the Round Rock Express, as opposed to the lower level Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks. However, if he takes major league spring training by the horns with plus control, he could wind up in the Astros’ bullpen on opening day.