Taylor Learns From Big Unit
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—Not that long ago, Josh Taylor was an undrafted lefthander with a so-so fastball and not much in the way of career prospects.
Less than two years later, he’s in camp with his hometown Diamondbacks, getting tips from his boyhood idol Randy Johnson and getting talked up as an under-the-radar pitching prospect in a system that could use one.
"It’s unbelievable,” said Taylor, 23, who is from nearby Peoria, Ariz.
After two years at Scottsdale (Ariz.) CC and another at Georgia College & State, Taylor was with the St. Cloud Rox of the summer-collegiate Northwoods League in 2014 when pitching coach J.P. Martinez suggested a mechanical tweak.
The 6-foot-5 Taylor said his fastball velocity immediately jumped from 88-90 mph to 92-95, and the Phillies snapped him up in August after seeing him at a league showcase. Arizona acquired him last summer, along with righthander Chris Oliver, in a swap of international bonus slots.
Among starter prospects in the organization, Taylor is mentioned by the front office in the same breath as righties Braden Shipley, Archie Bradley and Yoan Lopez and 2016 draft picks Alex Young and Taylor Clarke.
In 127 innings at the low Class A level last season, Taylor went 8-8, 3.96 in 24 starts. He struck out 123 and walked 44.
During the early days of spring training, Taylor said he introduced himself to Johnson, now a special assistant with the D-backs.
Taylor said to Johnson: "I grew up watching you, obviously, as a tall lefty. Your slider is your best pitch. If you don’t mind sharing with me how you did it.”
Taylor’s slider has come a long way since then.
"I’m just trying to take knowledge from knowledgeable people,” he said, "and work it in for myself.”
• Flame-thrower Adam Miller was slowed during spring training by a back issue that the club believes was leading to numbness in his fingers. The righthanded reliever was not expected to be ready for the start of the season.
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• Manager Chip Hale was impressed with lefty reliever Daniel Gibson early in camp, calling him a "bright star in our system.” The 2013 seventh-round pick out of Florida recorded a 1.56 ERA and 1.06 WHIP at two levels last year.