On April 18, 2014, the Mets traded former first-round pick Ike Davis to Pittsburgh for minor league reliever Zack Thornton and a player to be named later.
Fans waited one month and 28 days to learn that the player to be named later was left-handed pitcher Taylor, the Pirates' second-round pick in the 2013 draft. The Mets and Pirates had to delay announcing that Taylor was part of the trade because players cannot be traded until one year after they sign their first professional contract. One year to the day after Taylor signed, he became a Met.
Now comes the second, and much longer, phase of waiting as the 18-year-old Taylor tries to work his way up the farm system, from rookie ball to the big leagues.
No waiting is required however, to declare that Taylor was a strong return for the 27-year-old Davis. At the moment he was traded, Davis had hit .219/.317/.413 in his previous 271 games with the Mets since the start of the 2012 season. Moreover, he was owed $3.5 million in 2014. While the Pirates have coaxed a .359 on-base percentage out of Davis as part of a .250/.359/.364 line in 62 games in 2014 (thanks to a 15 percent walk rate), his power has disappeared. Overall, as a Pirate, he has been below replacement level according to both fWAR (-0.2) and bWAR (-0.6).
Meanwhile, Taylor was ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the Pirates' organization by Baseball America coming into the season and was listed in the "On the Rise" section at Baseball Prospectus.
For a young player, he really seemed to take the trade in stride.
"It's baseball, it happens," Taylor said to MMiLB. "You can't really do anything about it. You just have to play. That's just professional baseball."
He confessed that he had no idea that he would be the player to be named later for Davis, figuring it would be a more advanced college guy.
Taylor, when we spoke about 10 days after the trade was finalized, said that while was "excited" to wear the team's blue and orange, he was still adjusting.
Not a full two weeks into his time as a Met, he was "just trying to get in the swing of things."
"I feel like I've got most of the things down pat, [but] I'm still getting used to it," he said. "As we go along, hopefully, just clicks and then one day I can go out and just be comfortable and everything like that."
For example, he was learning the Mets' throwing program and, as he put it, "easing" into it.
Taylor is a big lefthander at 6'3", 220 pounds who works off a two- and a four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. Baseball America reported that he topped out at 94 mph, but sat 89-91 while his varsity coach in high school, Tom Faris, had him 91-92. The four-seamer has natural cut: away from left-handed hitters and into righthanded hitters. Thus, he splits home plate between his two fastballs using the four-seamer to his glove side, and the two-seamer to his bare-handed side.
"Most of the time when I go in on a right-handed batter, I use my four-seam," Taylor said. "Middle-away on a righty, I'll use my two-seam. Or if I'm trying to jam a lefty inside, I'll use my two-seam."
Taylor, like many high school hurlers really did not have a changeup when he turned pro. He threw his changeup maybe four times, he estimated, in games in his entire high school career.
"That was a pitch that I needed to develop with the Pirates, and I'm very happy that I did," he said. "It's a good pitch I can go to; it throws off timing. It's a hard pitch to hit. I like that I had to develop it. Now, it's probably my go-to off-speed [pitch]."
He adopted a "star grip" on the change, named because the fingers and the ball's seams end up looking like, well, a star.
"You use a four-seam grip on it," he said. "I use my pinky a little bit and my thumb normally sits on the side of the ball. ... You just kind of loosely grip the ball in your hands and it looks like a star kind of deal."
Taylor played just one season of varsity baseball at Dana Hills HS in Dana Point, CA before the Pirates drafted him. During his junior year, when his father moved, Blake transferred from El Toro High School to Dana Hills, and district rules prohibited athletes who transferred from playing varsity sports immediately. Taylor actually thinks that his year of JV ball, when he could have been playing varsity was very productive.
"Honestly, going to JV my junior year really helped so I could gain control of my pitches," Taylor said. "I could command all my pitches and I could work on all my pitches. It was a good thing for me. It was a different atmosphere."
Faris, the varsity coach and athletic director at the school, thought playing for JV helped Taylor develop as a leader and Blake handled the assignment well, "he didn't act like he had a big league attitude."
According to Faris, when he coached Taylor, they mostly worked on locating pitches rather than say sharpening a breaking ball.
"One of the things we tried to work on here in high school was his command of pitches and his accuracy," Faris said. "Sometimes he'd overthrow, and he'd feel like he had to throw every pitch 110 miles an hour."
The coach did point out that Taylor got into trouble mechanically when he did not use his full frame. Asked to point out what Taylor worked on mechanically, he said that Taylor "drops down a little bit with his back leg."
"We tried to get him to stay a little bit more tall because he's 6'3" and he doesn't need to become 5'10". He needs to stay on top," Faris said.
If a pitcher gets around the ball, or does not stay on top, they will lose the ability to spin sharp breaking balls and lose life/movement on their fastball.
In joining the Mets, Taylor is reuniting with a teammate. He and 2013 first-round pick Dominic Smith played on the same team at the 2012 Area Code Games for elite baseball talent. That team was loaded. It boasted 2013 first-round picks JP Crawford (Phillies) and Ian Clarkin (Yankees) and the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 Brady Aiken (Astros) and the sixth overall selection in 2014 Alex Jackson (Mariners).
Taylor made eight appearances in the Gulf Coast League for the Pirates in 2013, and has begun his Mets career on the same circuit. This season, he has walked six in 6 2/3 innings, but struck out eight and allowed one hit.
So, now Taylor goes about the long business of working to become a big leaguer, while fans wait for him and next year for a Major League team that is already 10 games under .500. Ike Davis was not part of a winning Mets present, but Taylor might -- just might -- be part of a winning Mets future.
Photos via Flickr user Bryan