Tayler Scott is different from every prospect in the Cubs system in a variety of ways. The first thing you notice about him is how athletic he is on the mound. And at 6’3” and 185 pounds, the young 22 year old — who was selected by the Jim Hendry regime in the 5th round of the 2011 draft — still has some room to add to his frame.
Scott was a big youth soccer player growing up in his native South Africa but he took up baseball to pass the time in the offseason. He ended up liking the sport so much that his father packed up the family and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona when Tayler was 16. Here is a short video from when he was with the Boise Hawks in 2012 in which he describes how he picked up baseball.
When I first saw him pitch in 2013, the right-hander looked very fluid on the mound and had a repeatable delivery, but struggled with commanding his fastball in early innings. As a result, he would give up 2-4 runs in the first two innings before he settled down. I saw him start three times and every time, the Cougars were playing from behind after one inning.
One thing Scott has been able to do as a Cubs prospect is to take the ball every time he’s called upon. In 2013 and 2014 he threw over 130 innings in each season, though the results have not always been solid. In 2013, his ERA was 4.22 while in 2014 he posted a 4.34 in 26 starts.
When the season began, I expected Scott to be on the roster for Tennessee. I was not stunned to see him in Myrtle Beach, but I was surprised to see him in the bullpen. It was clear, however, that with of the starting depth at Myrtle Beach, Scott’s way to AA was to get his command issues in order quickly in the bullpen.
For many pitchers, the road to the major leagues is a long and arduous one. Some pitchers can take 5-7 years to figure it out and develop into a major league asset. Many pitchers struggle to develop and command secondary pitches, others struggle with playing so much. Sometimes, a single grip change can mean the difference between the majors and minors and where the back foot is on the rubber can make or break a pitcher.
Scott, who is only 22, might have figured it out this year, as the lanky righty has excelled out of the pen. As a reliever, Scott has to have his fastball command on point from the get-go. He does not have the luxury of pitching several innings as he did as a starter. A byproduct of pitching more frequently has been that Scott’s command has dramatically improved. His fastball, in the low to mid 90’s, was a little higher in years past; this season, his fastball is down in the zone and hitters are struggling against him.
How much has Scott improved coming out of the pen?
All of his peripherals are much improved. The stats that stand out for me are his strikeouts (up) and his walks (down). His ratio of 4:1 K/BB is also excellent when compared to his starting statistics.
With James Pugliese and Jasvir Rakkar, the three righties are helping to back up a starting staff that has not been as powerful as it was at Kane County. Still, the team is 20-11 and in first place in the Carolina League. Some of that success can be attributed to Scott, who in 8 games has an ERA of 1.62 and has struck out an amazing 21 batters while only walking 5 in 16.2 innings.