Centennial grad Josh Taylor to play for Solar Sox in Arizona Fall League

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer

Centennial graduate Josh Taylor

Photos courtesy Louriann Mardo-Zayat
Centennial graduate Josh Taylor has advanced to AAA in the Boston Red Sox organization as he prepares to play in the 2018 Arizona Fall League in October.
 

Centennial graduate Josh Taylor was not a highly recruited baseball pitcher out of high school, but after three teams and four years in the minor leagues, he is primed to make a breakthrough, as he returns to play in the Arizona Fall League.

Taylor, who graduated from Centennial in 2011, spent a year at Scottsdale Community College, as well as a year at Georgia College (National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II) in Milledgeville, Ga., trying to improve his pitching.
 
“Not being one of the highly scouted arms out of high school, heading to Scottsdale gave me the opportunity to play, as opposed to starting at a four-year, where you may get little playing time as a freshman and sophomore,” Taylor said during a recent phone interview. “Obviously, everyone wants to go to a big name school out of high school, but those were the best times of my college career.”

College and signing with Philadelphia Phillies

Taylor had a few colleges recruiting him while at Centennial, but said he faced more issues off the field than on when it came to his opportunity to go to college.

“My senior year, I got a few schools asking me about college and sending me info, but academically, I wasn’t in the right place to take those opportunities,” Taylor said. “If I could go back, I would have taken care of that side of the ball better. If I had, maybe things would have ended up different, but I can’t complain.”
 
He signed to play at Scottsdale Community College, where, as a sophomore, finished the season 6-3 with a 3.93 earned run average (ERA) in 15 games for the Artichokes. He ranked third in wins with six and fourth in innings pitched (66) and strikeouts (72) in leading SCC to the third round of the National Junior College Athletic Association playoffs.
 
“The coaches and fellow players at SCC were amazing, and that was really my favorite time in college,” Taylor said. “When I got there, it really was a reality check because it made me realize there were better players out there and it made me work hard to get better on the mound.”
 
That he did, as during his sophomore season at SCC, he began getting noticed from a number of colleges after pitching in a showcase for a number of scouts. He got inquiries from a number of schools, before accepting a chance to attend Georgia College. He said he realized when he arrived that he would get a better chance to pitch.
 
“While I was at SCC, I got invited to pitch in the showcase, and my velocity had increased, and a number of (recruiters) talked to me about coming to their schools,” Taylor said. “(Georgia College) was the first that gave me a good offer to go to school, and I felt they were the best opportunity to continue my baseball career.”
 
After joining Georgia College, he showed immense improvement, finishing the 2014 season with a 7-4 record and 5.62 ERA, striking out 57 in 83 innings. He finished first on the team in innings pitched and strikeouts, second in wins, third in ERA and fourth in opposing batting average (.293) allowed.
 
“I learned a lot at (Georgia College) and it further made me realized that there is always someone better than you are,” Taylor said. “When I was pitching there, I had to work hard to get better and learn how to pitch more than just throw, and there was always someone who was much better than you, so it made me realize that I had to work that much harder to get better.”
 
He received attention and was invited to pitch in The Northwoods League, which is a collegiate summer baseball league composed of teams of the top college players from North America and beyond. All players in the league must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to participate, with players not paid, so as to maintain their college eligibility.
 
Teams are run similar to professional minor league teams, providing players an opportunity to play under the same conditions, using wooden bats and minor league specification baseballs. Taylor pitched well, including striking out 11 in six innings of a game, after his pitching coach at the time, J.P. Martinez, suggested a mechanical tweak.
 
“I was luckily enough to get invited to play in the Northwoods League and showcase my pitching to major league scouts,” Taylor said. “Throughout my time there, I started throwing harder and it opened scouts’ eyes.”
 
Taylor said numerous teams discussed his future with him after pitching in the Northwoods League, with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies showing the most interest in signing him. He said the Phillies offered him a deal and he was more than willing to sign with them.
 
“It was my dream and here it was, coming true and I was so excited,” Taylor said. “They made me an offer and it was such an amazing feeling to get that offer.”

Switch to bullpen and future

Taylor, who grew up an Arizona Diamondbacks fan, spent a year in the Phillies organization with the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws. He realized a dream when he was traded to the Diamondbacks in 2015.

“It was awesome and was the best thing that could happen to me,” Taylor said. “I grew up a Diamondbacks fan and when I was told the Phillies had traded me to Arizona, the kid in me came out. I was going to be playing for my hometown team. It was just an amazing time to join the Diamondbacks.”
 
He was invited to spring training in 2017, appearing in one game, before being sent to double A Jackson Generals in Tennessee, before being traded to the Boston Red Sox in March 2018. The Diamondbacks had traded for Deven Marrero in March for a player to be named later, who turned out to be Taylor three months later.
 
“I was shocked when I was traded to Boston,” Taylor said. “The Diamondbacks had made the deal about three months earlier, so I didn’t think I would be a player to be named, but here I was headed to the Red Sox.”
 
At the All-Star break, coaches suggested Taylor make the switch to the bullpen, where he has showed great improvement, as opposed to being a starting pitcher.
 
“When they called me in and let me know they wanted to try me in relief, I was against it at first,” Taylor said. “They told me they wanted me to focus on getting 3 to 6 outs at a time and said it would benefit my career.”
 
That it has, as Taylor has struck out 60 batters in 53 innings this year, with 13 saves, as he has advanced to AAA Pawtucket Red Sox, where, in his first appearance, he pitched two innings, striking out two.
 
“I like pitching out of the bullpen because it is a different feel for the game and it helps me enjoy the game even more,” Taylor said. “As a starter, when you’re not pitching, you don’t pay as close attention. As a reliever, you never know when you will be called upon, so I am focused on each inning and each batter more.”
 
As he prepares to join the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League, Taylor said he knows he has work to do, but he is focused on achieving his dream of making the majors.
 
“My goal is to play major league baseball and be on a roster every day,” Taylor said. “I am coming to Arizona to focus on the pitch-to-pitch at bats and work on my timing every outing. I think on my end, I just need to focus on each pitch and be confident.”
 
Asked about what he sees his future becoming, Taylor was quick to point out the only thing he can do is continue to improve.
 
“Whether or not I make the majors, really, is not my decision to make; all I can do is continue to work hard,” Taylor said. “I would love the opportunity to pitch at Fenway Park and I think my off season in the Fall League will show how much I have improved and it will have a big say in if I am invited to spring training. I am just going to continue to work hard and try and get better in each outing I get.”

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