In just his first full professional campaign, Beau Taylor began his season at the High-A level, earning a spot splitting time behind the plate with catching prospect Max Stassi in Stockton. Taylor showcased an ability to get on-base with the Ports and was rewarded by manager Webster Garrison when he batted Taylor at the top of the lineup for much of his stint with the Ports. In fact, Taylor had a .412 OBP in 195 plate appearances along with a .328 average, 34 RBI, 10 doubles and three home runs.
Taylor has been one of the most consistent catchers in the Oakland A's organization this year, so it was no surprise when he got the news of a call-up to the Double-A Midland Rockhounds on July 12.
"That was great news to hear," Taylor said. "This is just my first full year in the minors so to already be in Double-A is exciting. It's good to see all my hard work is already paying off."
The Rockledge, Fla. native has seen a decline in his stats since joining Midland, although he had only 71 at-bats. Taylor was hitting .254 with seven RBI, a .346 OBP, a 641 OPS and nine walks compared to 18 strikeouts. He is only batting .200 in his last 10 games (seven hits in 35 plate appearances).
Although the numbers are down a bit, Taylor is sticking with the same approach that made him an offensive force in Stockton.
"I just wait on my pitch," he said. "I try not to swing at junk. If you do pitchers will get you every time. I have to cut down on my strikeouts and be willing to take more walks. You can't let them fool you and you have to take advantage of mistakes. If I don't try to do too much and stay with my game-plan I'll be successful."
Taylor is already enjoying his time with his new team.
"The guys are great," he said. "The locker room is always a fun place to be. The guys keep it interesting. I've played with and already knew some of the guys like Sonny [Gray], who was in the same draft as me."
Taylor became a University of Central Florida Golden Knight after leading his high school team in Rockledge to an AAU national championship. The 22-year-old became a catcher at UCF even though he played every infield position throughout his high school career.
Taylor lit up Conference USA beginning his freshman year. He hit .335 with a .500 slugging percentage and smacked 15 doubles that year. He became the first Golden Knight to claim Freshman-All American honors.
His sophomore and junior seasons were even better as he was a candidate for the Johnny Bench award which recognizes the best collegiate catcher. Taylor ended his sophomore year with a 21-game hitting streak and had a 15-game streak as a junior. He was just as dominant behind the plate. He put up a .998 fielding percentage his junior year and helped catapult UCF into the NCAA regionals.
After his career at Central Florida, he was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the fifth round, the fourth player selected by the A's in last year's draft behind Sonny Gray, B.A. Vollmuth and Bobby Crocker.
Taylor still remembers how he felt that day.
"I was really excited when I found out they [Oakland] drafted me," Taylor said. "It was a great day. Not only was I drafted high, but I got picked by a great organization. I dreamed about that for as long as I can remember. For it to actually happen was great."
He played in five games with short-season Vermont last year then became one of the first players in his draft class to advance to a full-season league. In 43 games for the Low-A Burlington Bees last season, he hit .293/.367/.367. However, Taylor had just nine extra-base hits and walked only 18 times compared to 34 strike-outs, although he finished the year on a hot streak.
This season did not start off the way Taylor had hoped as he was sidelined with an injury during spring training. As a result, he started 2012 at extended spring training but joined the Ports on April 14th.
Since that spring training hiccup, Taylor has remained healthy, perhaps in part because he has had the luxury of splitting time this season between catching and DHing. In Stockton, he and Stassi would be in the line-up everyday, flip-flopping between catcher and DH. When he arrived in Midland, Taylor first split time at catcher with Ryan Lipkin until Lipkin was placed on the disabled list on Thursday. Now Taylor will be sharing catching duties with David Freitas. Freitas was acquired in a trade with the Washington Nationals for veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki last week.
Taylor has been known as a strong defensive catcher since he started playing the position in college, but he struggled with occasional defensive lapses while in Stockton. So far, however, he has been able to turn things around as a ‘Hound. He has not committed an error in 20 games.
"You can never work on defense enough, especially at catcher," he said. "I want to be an all-around good player not just good in one area. I take defense very seriously. Catcher is a hard position to play every single day so if you don't keep working on it you'll get rusty.
"Right now I'm still working on my throws and catching pop-flies. I air-mailed too many throws and missed way too many routine pop-ups in Stockton."
Last season, Taylor posted an 813 OPS during the month of August with Burlington. A similar finish to his 2012 campaign would put an exclamation point on what has already been a successful first full professional campaign for the backstop.