June 17 arrived with the KC Royals already trapped in the nightmare that is this season. With their afternoon game with the Angels yet to be played, the Royals had lost 10 straight games and were in last place in the American League Central, where they'd been since April 29 and remain today.
Samad Taylor, however, was living the dream that day. Bouncing back from a troubled 2022 campaign — together with Max Castillo, Toronto dealt him to Kansas City to get Whit Merrifield just before the trade deadline expired, and he spent the rest of the season on the Injured List — Taylor had just the day before earned a promotion to the big leagues by batting .304 with a .409 OBP and 34 stolen bases for Triple-A Omaha.
Taylor's dream got even better June 17. Hitless in five plate appearances during his major league debut (to his credit, he'd walked twice, so was officially 0-for-3), he came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied and the potential winning run at third.
And poked a fly ball past Mike Trout in center field to give his new club a walk-off against the Angels.
Unfortunately, no such great moments have followed for Taylor, a speedy utility-type player who's manned second and third bases, shortstop, and left and center fielders professionally. He'd hit safely only twice more and was batting .111 when the Royals farmed him back to Omaha July 4; they've recalled him twice since then, and he's hit .259 across those two trips, but he's back in Omaha after the club optioned him again Monday. Unless the Royals call him back before the season ends, he'll finish his first big league campaign with a .200/.279/.267 line and 51 OPS+.
Where, then does he stand with the franchise that this year gave him his first shot in the majors?
The KC Royals might put Samad Taylor on the trade block this winter
Because Kansas City seems well-stocked at the positions he plays, and another rookie is making an early but strong case to fill the kind of super-utility role Merrifield enjoyed with the Royals, Taylor could find himself squeezed out after the World Series ends and the major league trade market opens.
Until Taylor's latest demotion, manager Matt Quatraro had deployed him primarily in left field and at second base. Although left remains a question mark for the Royals, Nelson Velázquez will be a strong candidate to play there next season — he's homered eight times and driven in 15 runs in the 22 games he's played for the Royals since coming to the club via the late July trade that sent José Cuas to the Cubs. And if he doesn't get the job, Dairon Blanco, MJ Melendez, Drew Waters, or Nick Loftin, or someone the club trades for or picks up via free agency, probably will.
The second base field may be less crowded, but not to Taylor's advantage. Unless the Royals grow more displeased with Michael Massey's bat than they seem to be now, he'll likely return to the position next year; if he doesn't, don't be surprised if rookie Nick Loftin, the Royals' No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline who's played quite well (6-for-13 with three doubles and three RBIs since being called up last Friday) lands the everyday spot.
But even if Loftin doesn't displace Massey, he'll almost certainly make the club and play regularly as its prime utility man. With professional playing time at second, short, and third, and in left and center, he'd already matched Taylor for positional versatility when the Royals promoted him and, since arriving in Kansas City, has added first base to his résumé. And like Taylor, he's a speedster (he stole 29 bases in the minors in 2022). He also hits for more power. The utility edge, then, goes to Loftin.
All that could leave Taylor on the outside looking in. That doesn't mean, though, that he doesn't represent value to the Royals — because he can hit, steal bases, and field decently, they should be able to package him in the kind of winter trade that could net a nice return.
If, that is, they no longer believe they have a place for him.
Time will tell.