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Despite AFL Numbers, Samad Taylor Is Worth Protecting From Rule 5

Taylor isn't producing, but his profile is still worth adding to the 40-man roster soon.

With the 2022 MLB offseason beginning to pick up steam, the Kansas City Royals are busy figuring out who to surround new manager Matt Quatraro with on their coaching staff. While that top priority remains legitimate, there's an underrated element of the offseason that will soon garner plenty of attention as well — the Rule 5 Draft.

At the end of winter meetings, players who aren't on 40-man MLB rosters and who qualify for the Rule 5 Draft risk being selected by other teams. Teams aren't required to make any selections, but the Royals organization can look back to late 2017 and their find of Brad Keller as a reason to at least do their due diligence this winter. On the other end of that double-edged sword, however, Kansas City has some prospects who aren't currently protected that could be picked up in the Rule 5 Draft. 

In addition to the likes of pitchers Drew Parrish, Anthony Veneziano, Josh Dye, Alec Marsh and T.J. Sikkema, infielder/outfielder Samad Taylor is one of the biggest Royals names heading into the looming return of the Rule 5 Draft. Taylor, the No. 25 prospect in the Royals' system according to MLB.com, was acquired in the Whit Merrifield trade back in August but didn't play for the rest of the minor league season due to an injury. Now a member of the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League, the 24-year-old is struggling to find his footing.

In 17 games entering Wednesday's play, Taylor is slashing .151/.242/.321 with a .563 OPS in 53 at-bats. He has just eight hits thus far, with five of them being for extra bases. Additionally, he has 22 strikeouts and isn't posting the best of contact rates either. For Taylor, a player who hit .258 with a 101 wRC+ in 70 games with Triple-A Buffalo before being traded to Kansas City and sitting out with the injury, this isn't what he — nor the team — signed up for.

Despite that, Taylor remains worthy of being added to the 40-man roster and thus being protected from the Rule 5 Draft. 

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Oct 7, 2022; Peoria, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Royals infielder Samad Taylor (9) of the Surprise Saguaros steals second base ahead of the tag by Cleveland Guardians infielder Angel Martinez for the Peoria Javelinas during an Arizona Fall League baseball game at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of all of his struggles in the AFL, Taylor does have seven walks to his name and is also second on the Saguaros with seven stolen bases. This is consistent with his minor league numbers, as he's posted a double-digit walk rate at every stop dating back to 2018 and has swiped 123 bags in those 386 games. Taylor's track record, even with less-than-desirable strikeout rates in 2019, 2021 and this year pre-AFL, is that of a player who can work a good amount of walks and make opposing teams pay once he gets on base. Those elements aren't being brought into question in the AFL. 

The aforementioned 53-at-bat sample size is also worth considering here. Is Taylor more of the hitter who's posting a .563 OPS right now, or is he closer to the player who posted OPS figures of .888 and .763 in 2021 and 2022, respectively, in Double-A and Triple-A? One set of data is a lot more expansive and proven than the other, and the fact that he was producing at an adequate level in Triple-A before getting injured this year is a positive sign.

While Taylor is getting a bit old for his current level and doesn't have a sky-high ceiling, his floor as a prospect is worth keeping around. His speed is a 60-grade tool, his defensive versatility in both the infield and outfield increases the likelihood of him being able to contribute on the Royals' big-league club at some point during the 2023 campaign and his recent success as a hitter outweighs his AFL stretch right now. When adding in the fact that the organization already invested in him via trade and has an impressive hitting development staff at the highest level, it makes sense to not give up on Taylor.

Per Anne Rogers of MLB.com, Taylor is "likely" to be added to the 40-man roster at some point soon. A rough go in the fall isn't going to doom him as a prospect, and the absence of the Rule 5 Draft last year could mean that a team out there has had even more time to determine that they want to acquire his services. 

The Royals shouldn't be willing to take that chance and because they have some spots that could soon open up, one of those vacancies on the roster should belong to Taylor. Although his production at the moment isn't great, there's enough logic behind the club potentially wanting to see what he can do in 2023 and beyond.

Read More: Royals Hit a Home Run by Hiring Matt Quatraro as Manager