It didn’t take long for Brayden Taylor to feel comfortable against premium college pitching.
He didn’t regularly face pitchers throwing 90-plus mph during his prep career, and going from the Utah high school ranks to high-major Division I college baseball was an adjustment, he said. But he quickly gained confidence in his first fall baseball season at Texas Christian University in 2020.
“I got a hit off a like 95 mph fastball off my buddy Johnny Ray, and I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go. I’m ready to rock now,'” Taylor said.
Taylor has carried that confidence into his first two years at TCU, developing into an impact hitter and one of the top players in the college ranks. His success has caused him to receive attention from scouts in anticipation of the 2023 MLB draft, with talent evaluators considering him as a potential first-round pick.
“Everything about that is cool,” Taylor said. “My parents eat it up and love to see it. I see all the stuff, but I try to avoid it a little bit so I can focus on what is important right now. That is the college baseball season. There are no guarantees.”
Taylor has showed a well-balanced offensive toolset in his college career. Between his freshman and sophomore years, Taylor hit .319 with 25 doubles, five triples, 25 home runs and 103 RBIs in 545 plate appearances. He also stole 25 of 26 bases while showing strong plate discipline with 104 walks to 86 strikeouts.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound left-handed hitter will try to build on his first two seasons as a junior this spring. Taylor has simple swing mechanics and uses a short and compact swing to easily drive the ball into the gaps. He has an impressive eye at the plate, rarely chasing pitches out of the strike zone due to his advanced pitch recognition.
“I am willing to sometimes take those borderline calls,” Taylor said. “I feel like that has been a really big part of my game is knowing the strike zone. It’s really cool to see the coaches stick up for me if I get wrung up on something because they let me know that I have a good eye.”
Taylor grew up playing shortstop. At TCU, Taylor has mostly played third base while occasionally seeing time at second base and shortstop. His athleticism allows him to move well laterally and cover plenty of ground. He also boasts a strong arm.
Taylor’s versatility will help him in the future. If he doesn’t play shortstop in pro ball, he fits well at third base.
“Third base was a big adjustment,” Taylor said. “A lot of college players come in as shortstops, so I knew I just had to be ready to move around the field and do what is asked. Third is a really, really fun position. So is shortstop. I can’t really pick one over the other. I’m just happy to be out there.”
Last season, Taylor played an important role in TCU winning the Big 12 in coach Kirk Saarloos’ first season at the helm. Taylor raves about Saarloos, who pitched for seven years in the major leagues, describing him as “one of those coaches us players are willing to go to war with.”
TCU enters the 2023 season as one of the top teams in college baseball. The Horned Frogs made the NCAA tournament and finished with a 38-22 record last season. It marked their 16th tournament appearance in the previous 18 years.
This season, the Horned Frogs hope to win a regional and advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time since 2017.
“We want to go to Omaha,” Taylor said. “That’s one of our biggest preaches this year is we are getting there. We have a really good team this year. We are ready to rock out there.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.