The late mover is the hot prospect that makes a perceived jump up the board in the days leading up to the draft. Each year, a few prep players make the late jump thanks to their high school seasons firming up their prospect status. It also seems like a football prospect or two does just that with the reps they get in that final season pushing up their draft status near or above their football ranking. That is the case for a couple of Clemson recruits, Bubba Chandler from Georgia and South Carolina’s Will Taylor. It seems Taylor’s stock has skyrocketed, and teams are looking at the quarterback/wide receiver as a possible top ten selection.
Taylor’s stock started to move up last year with impressive showings in the showcase circuit, including an impressive outing in East Coast Pro. At 6’0 175 lbs, Taylor doesn’t project to have more than average power in the future, and it’s likely to stay a tick below average. That tool is the one tool that doesn’t rank to the average for the outfielder. His speed is top of the scale, clocking in at sub 6.45 seconds in the 60-yard dash and transferring well onto the field with 21 steals during his high school season this year. As a quarterback in high school, he has an average arm that should be enough to stick in centerfield. Defensively he has to iron some things out in his routes, but that isn’t a surprise for a player who has split his time between three different sports in high school. During the circuit, Taylor made some adjustments last year that showed an IQ to help him take the next step.
Those adjustments carried over during his high school season, helping him win the state player of the year honors while hitting .455/.586/.869 with seven home runs for the 5A Dutch Fork South Carolina squad. This was after the quarterback helped finish off his high school’s fifth consecutive football championship. He used that athletic talent to earn a scholarship offer and a look at competing in the spring for an uncharacteristically thin position for the powerhouse program. Additionally, Taylor won three state high school wrestling championships. The football and wrestling toughness, leadership, ability to play in big high school games, and athleticism stand out as well for Taylor as any prospect in the country.
“Will Taylor has one of the greatest work ethics of any player I’ve ever coached,” Dutch Fork baseball coach Casey Waites said. “He has MLB power and speed. He is all business when he crosses the lines to play, and his baseball knowledge is at a very high level.”
The last player the Royals chose from South Carolina was Anthony Veneziano, a left-handed pitcher from Coastal Carolina currently pitching at High-A for Quad Cities. Of course, the best player the Royals have ever taken from the state is Whit Merrifield. The Royals leadoff man has accumulated 15.5 rWAR, the most by a drafted position player for the Royals in the Dayton Moore era. Merrifield’s game is the best-case scenario for Taylor, with more centerfield play for the high schooler. If a team got a similar game offensively to the one the Royals got with Whit, they would be pretty pleased. Add Taylor’s athleticism, speed, and centerfield defensive value makes a possible 3-4 win future value.
More early season power from @willtaylor_10 with a HR yesterday and 1 on Saturday night! He showed plus speed and one of the better hit tools in the class last summer/fall, now the power is emerging. His prospect status continues to rise! #MLBDraft @ClemsonBaseball @ClemsonFB pic.twitter.com/fRIoAz0Lu2— Baseball Factory (@BaseballFactory) March 16, 2021
The interesting case here is lots of baseball people will say that keeping Will Taylor in the game is imperative and having good athletes is essential. That said unless he is a quarterback and eventual 1st round type, his passing on signing with an MLB team would be a mistake. A slot receiver isn’t going to be chosen too highly in the NFL draft, so to make as much money as he would for signing as a Top 15 pick MLB Pick he would have to last into a second NFL contract. That’s a big gamble that you will arrive at one of the two elite college football schools, play your way into a position to get drafted by an NFL team and succeed at that level also. Compared to what baseball offers, he will be an instant multimillionaire and attempt to work his way to the major leagues where he could make more, keep his brain intact while setting his career up for the best pension in pro sports.
There are rumors the Royals have interest in Taylor for the seventh selection. Given his athleticism and the history of players they have taken, he fits very well into the mold of someone they would like. For the Royals, it would be too large of a risk to select this outfielder. His game and history are reminiscent of Sal Frelick’s, but the Boston College outfielder presents a higher floor and less volatility than Taylor, having already competed at a much higher level. The athleticism would be tantalizing, and if he would fall to the second round because of his college commitment, he would make a worthy selection to buy him out with some of the money from the third and fourth rounds.
However, selecting Taylor in the first round seems too risky. The lacking power leaves a hole in his game similar to Frelick’s but with more risk involved and an industry that sells the college football game as some leverage tool that shouldn’t exist for non-quarterbacks. Should one of the high school shortstops fall to the Royals at seven, then a high school pick can make sense but going that route with a late bloomer seems like taking too large of a swing with too little possible upside in return. A selection of this high school quarterback would be somewhat similar to the one they made ten years ago, something that didn’t work out well with Bubba Starling.