22. Mike Tauchman (270 points, 28 ballots)
Mike Tauchman already has something that many on this list will never achieve: a major league cup of coffee. The 27-year-old lefty OF forced his way onto the roster with consistently strong play and received a 32 plate appearance cameo with the Rockies down the stretch of 2017. Tauchman didn’t exactly shine at the plate in the Show, posting a .222/.344/.296 line with one extra base hit, good for a 62 wRC+. Tauchman, however, showed himself to be a potentially valuable asset for the Rockies thanks to his speed and defensive utility.
Beyond his major league numbers, Tauchman has been a consistently strong player in the minor leagues over the last five seasons. He has a career .301/.367/.424 line in the minors and fought through higher-pedigreed prospects to earn a 40 man roster slot. In 2017, Tauchman tore the cover off the ball in his second tour with Albuquerque. His batting line for the Isotopes over 475 plate appearances was a mighty .331/.386/.555 with 54 extra base hits and 16 hits—good for a 139 wRC+. That production was just too good for the Rockies to ignore.
Let’s look at some video of Tauchman from this April, courtesy of the Baseball Census:
Though Tauchman has never been considered a serious prospect by national scouts, he has garnered a modicum of fame as a consistent member of the Fringe Five, created by Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs to highlight prospects who may not excite scouts but who produce on the field. Tauchman appeared seven separate times in 2017 alone and had been “Cistulli’s Guy” in the three preceding Rockies system reviews by FanGraphs.
Here’s one of Cistulli’s write-ups from this past July, in which Tauchman’s narrative is compared to Charlie Blackmon:
Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon (now 31) has already produced more than four wins this year. Nor is this necessarily an aberration for him. Consider: Blackmon recorded at least two wins in every season between 2014 and -16, as well. One is forced to conclude, given the evidence, that Charlie Blackmon is probably an above-average ballplayer.
One is also forced to conclude that this wasn’t the most likely outcome for Blackmon. After failing to reach Triple-A until his age-24 campaign, he then proceeded to compile over 800 plate appearances at that level. At no point did he appear on — or anywhere close to, really — one of the more notable top-100 lists.
Blackmon basically always controlled the strike zone as a minor leaguer and also always promised a positive defensive return. At this point, much the same can be said for Tauchman, who’s recorded paired a 14.7% strikeout rate with a .271 isolated-slugging figure in 75 plate appearances since the last edition of the Five. According to Clay Davenport’s metrics, the defense is an asset.
Tauchman held on to his 40 man roster slot despite a glut of outfield prospects this off-season and will enter Spring Training with a case to make the Opening Day roster. I think he ultimately begins 2018 as Triple-A insurance for Colorado but gets into plenty of big league games.
Tauchman’s speed, defense, and proximity to the Show led me to place him 23rd on my personal ballot. Producing players like Tauchman is an under-rated role of a minor league system and hopefully he’s got more major league value to provide.