Lindsey Excels Beyond His Years For Angels
As Taylor Lindsey
and his family gathered for the 2010 draft, Lindsey had an idea about when he might go.
Few people outside the room likely shared that confidence. Lindsey garnered plenty of attention during his senior season at Desert Mountain High in Scottsdale, Ariz., leading up to the draft, but there were skeptics about how his swing would translate to wood bats and about his ability to stay at his high school position of shortstop.
The Angels may have been the only team that deemed Lindsey worthy of being a supplemental first-round pick. But one is all you need. Lindsey had gotten a heads-up that he might get picked then, but he chose not to play spoiler.
"I had an idea because of the call I got," Lindsey said. "And then I just kept it to myself, so everyone was happy when my name came up. It was a good day."
The concern about Lindsey's defense proved legitimate as he was promptly moved to second base after turning pro, but he has proven plenty capable of handling the bat. Lindsey signed quickly after the draft for $873,000 then went out and hit .284/.325/.407 over the rest of the summer in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Lindsey topped his AZL performance in his tour of the Pioneer League in 2011, capturing league MVP honors with a .362/.394/.593 line with Orem as a 19-year-old. He finished second in the PL batting race along with posting the third-highest slugging percentage, which owed primarily to his league-high 28 doubles, to go with nine homers.
For Lindsey's encore, the Angels decided he was ready for a stiffer challenge. Rather than go the usual route of assigning him to the low Class A Midwest League, Los Angeles brass skipped him up to high Class A Inland Empire. Despite being one of the California League's youngest players, playing all year at age 20, Lindsey has kept producing. He hit .301/.372/.470 in April before dipping into the .260s for a couple months, but he got back on track with a .333/.361/.479 July. Approaching the season's final weekend, he was Inland Empire's second-leading hitter with a .295/.336/.415 line to go with nine homers.
"Taylor has definitely held his own," Inland Empire manager Bill Haselman said. "Very solid season hitting for any age, but especially if you factor in a 20-year-old age. That's quite a jump from Orem to come here and be able to do that and skip a level."
Lindsey came to Inland Empire with an accomplished resume for a hitter his age, but there's always room to get better.
A combination of quick hands and exceptional hand-eye coordination fueled Lindsey's big year in the Pioneer League, but it took a couple tweaks to his batting stance for him to start sustaining his Cal League success after his hot start. One was spreading out his legs and giving him a wider base, but the most helpful tweak has been moving Lindsey's hands up higher.
"He works with our hitting coach, Paul Sorrento," Haselman said. "They moved his hands. He started his hands real low and they moved them up near his shoulder. To me, it looks a lot better up there."
Changing his hand position has helped Lindsey simplify his swing, getting him into a better position to hit sooner. He's become even more adept at getting around on quality fastballs, with Haselman praising his ability to spray line drives to all parts of the field.
Home run hitting hasn't been as big a part of Lindsay's game as it was last year, when he hit nine in 290 at-bats with Orem. His power production has dipped despite moving up from one hitters' league to another. His homer production fell to nine in 525 at-bats through Aug. 29, while his slugging percentage dropped to .415. Nonetheless, Haselman wouldn't rule out an increase in Lindsay's home run output as the 6-foot, 195-pounder continues to mature.
"He definitely has the bat speed to be able to hit home runs in the future," Haselman said. "But I think right now, he's more of the gap-to-gap type of guy. You just don't know where they're going to develop. But to be able to be a contact hitter right now, that's a good thing. The homers will come if they come."
Haselman would like to see Lindsey tighten his strike zone a bit—he had drawn just 29 walks after 129 games—but the young hitter has already proven he's a difficult out. In the Pioneer League, Lindsey was the third toughest hitter to strike out in the league, going down on strikes once every 6.67 plate appearances. He's improved that rate even more this season, whiffing just once every nine trips to the plate. During his hot July, he struck out a mere seven times in 117 at-bats.
"I take pride in it," Lindsey said. "I hate to strike out. I'd rather battle every at-bat, go 12 pitches in an at-bat and just get on base."
Second To None
Lindsey expected his shortstop career would end once he got drafted. He didn't possess the range or arm strength to last at the position, but he's been putting in the work to make a go of it on the other side of the infield at second base.
The biggest challenge in making the move was getting the right footwork down and relearning how turn double plays. Lindsey continues working on his flexibility and arm strength, although he already led Pioneer League second baseman in fielding percentage last year (.976) and was second in the Cal League this year (.975).
"That's a part of his game, in my opinion, he's improved on a lot, and he'll continue to," Haselman said. "He needs to just keep working on stuff at second base—turning double plays, moving to his right, his left, doing the simple things second basemen do so he becomes more and more of a big league second baseman every day."
There's still room for Lindsey to grow, but he's shown maturity beyond his years both in terms of his production during games and his work ethic between them, and it hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Just an outstanding young man to manage," Haselman said. "Comes to play. Never any trouble. Great attitude about the game."