Josh Taylor was a revelation out of the bullpen for the Boston Red Sox in 2019 and with the ability to focus solely on baseball, the sky’s the limit.
Though there may not be any Red Sox games on the schedule in the near future that doesn’t mean the baseball world has stopped. Even with the Commissioner’s office postponing the regular season, workouts ahead of the new year are continuing. Yesterday the league gave players the option to stay in their spring training sites, go home, or head to their respective clubs to prepare for the upcoming campaign.
For Boston, this means southpaw reliever Josh Taylor will have even more time to prepare for 2020. This past winter was the first time that the pitcher was able to focus only on baseball during the offseason. Like many players in the minors, he had to supplement his paltry salary by working another job to make ends meet.
It’s an interesting and pretty depressing dynamic when you compare the salaries of those in the Majors versus those in the Minors. You don’t see guys like Mookie Betts or Justin Verlander needing to pull shifts at the local Wal Mart to pay the gas bill.
Luckily, that can all change once you get that fateful phone call that you’re heading up to the big-time. However, it’s not just getting to the Majors but staying there, and that’s what Taylor has done.
The lefty got promoted at the end of May and didn’t loosen his grasp on his position for the remainder of the season. Now that Taylor has his spot more than earned on Boston’s 40-Man roster, he spoke about the ability to give the Red Sox his all this winter.
“I actually didn’t have to work for the first time in my life,” Taylor told MassLive.com. “Obviously I had more time to spend getting ready for the season. Not trying to find time for a workout, throwing and a bullpen. I had the time to do it. I obviously had more preparation time.”
Having the time to dedicate to his craft and not needing to worry about another job to pay his bills has to be a lifesaver for the reliever. Everyone has bills and responsibilities but not everyone gets paid huge money for a very specified skillset. When you have to find time to sneak in a workout between shifts on the dock, both will likely suffer.
Now that Taylor is fully focused on his craft and no longer needing to force workouts, he’ll undoubtedly see the benefits in 2020.
Boston’s pitching staff was beyond unreliable last season with the starters and relievers never quite getting on the same page. There were parts of the year where each was stellar but those windows never seemed to overlap when it mattered the most.
Taylor was a surprise out of the pen for the Red Sox as he excelled in his rookie campaign. He finished off 2019 with a 2-2 record through 47.1 IP with 62 strikeouts to only 16 walks. Considering the absolute rollercoaster that was Boston’s bullpen a year ago, I’ll take those numbers all day long.
“Obviously I’m still fighting for a job. I still have to fight for a job. Nothing’s going to be handed to me,” Taylor said. But I was more confident coming into camp that they know me and I know them. I think I’m in a good place.”
The lefty seems like as much of a lock as you can be right now to make the Opening Day roster. There also seems to be more structure to the bullpen this year after Alex Cora’s massive fumble last spring.
Having a structure and an idea of when you’ll most likely be getting used will allow you to create a routine and excel. The mystery around who the closer was and who would be pitching when for 2019 was just an awful move by Cora, a rare misstep.
I’m not sure where exactly Taylor will fit into Ron Roenicke’s bullpen lineup as he pitched in both short and long inning scenarios last season. He’s also proven to have the ability to shirk off stress when the game is at its peak.
It feels like Brandon Workman has the closer job locked up, so Taylor will be in the set-up mix along with Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, and Marcus Walden. Much like Taylor, Walden was a force out of nowhere last year and has proven to be a major asset. If all four major relievers are ready to rock when the season picks back up then Boston has a serious chance to see October once again.
Josh Taylor was one of the few pitchers that the Red Sox could rely upon through last season. With an offseason dedicated solely to baseball, his ceiling is that much higher. The 2020 season will be a big one of the strong lefty as it’ll be his chance to prove he’s not a one-hit-wonder in the majors. If 2019 was any indication of what he’s capable of when he isn’t focused just on the mound, I think we’ll be in for one hell of a show in 2020.