USA TODAY has been recognizing the nation's top high school athletes for more than 30 years. As we prepare to unveil the 2014 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Baseball Team at the end of the season, we'll dig into the archives and check in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades. Today, we’re catching up with Salt Lake Bees second baseman Taylor Lindsey, who was an ALL-USA player for Desert Mountain (Scottsdale, Ariz.) in 2010.
Taylor Lindsey’s rise in the Los Angeles Angels’ system has been similar to his approach to the game. Steady and improving every year. This season, he’s the youngest player by nearly two years with the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees, where he’s hitting .252 with four homers and 17 RBI in 143 at-bats.
“The toughest adjustment (at Triple A) has been the pitching,” Lindsey said. “They throw every pitch they have for strikes and the pitchers have more command. My goal is to just make hard contact every time, just trying to hit the ball into the gaps.”
Lindsey bats left and throws right, is 6-foot and 195 pounds and is one of the top prospects in the Angels’ system, He was drafted No. 37 overall in 2010 out of high school and has started each spring at a higher level. His first full season in 2011, he was named the rookie-level Pioneer League’s Most Valuable Player, hitting .362 with nine homers and 46 RBI in 290 at-bats for the Orem Owlz.
In 2012, he was named a postseason All-Star with the Inland Empire 66ers of the Class A California League, hitting .289 with 58 RBI and nine homers in 547 at-bats. Last season with the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, he was named a mid-season and postseason All-Star, hitting .274 with 17 homers and 56 RBI in 508 at-bats.
No matter what level he’s at, one constant has been his power. So far in the minors, he has hit 39 homers in 410 games.
“I started working with him when he was 12,” said Bryan Rice, his former coach at Desert Mountain and current coach at Desert Ridge (Mesa, Ariz.). “He’s a pretty special player. He’s put up good numbers every year. He’s always done a good job of staying in pitches. His power comes from his approach. He’s not trying to hit home runs, he’s trying to hit line drives.”
At Desert Mountain, he hit .592 with 18 home runs and 73 RBI his senior year. Because he grew up as a friend to Jacob Williams, the son of former Arizona Diamondbacks player Matt Williams, Lindsey got an early look at how Major League players prepare.
Lindsey said he’s also benefited from veteran advice in Salt Lake, particularly from outfielder Brennan Boesch, first baseman Efren Navarro and second baseman Tommy Field, all of whom have had Major League stints.
“All those guys talk to me about defense, hitting or my approach,” Lindsey said. “I get great advice every day. My defense is good right now and I work on it every day. (Bees Manager) Keith Johnson has worked with me on improving my turn.”
Lindsey has two other solid sounding boards. His mother and third baseman Kaleb Cowart, who was the 2010 ALL-USA Player of the Year. Cowart is with AA Arkansas this season but played alongside Lindsey the past four seasons.
“I talk with my mom every day,” Lindsey said. “My mom is into baseball, so she’ll ask me how my swing is going. It’s my mom, so she’s allowed to ask me about my hitting. … I’ll talk to Kaleb about certain things. He’ll text me if I’m struggling. The biggest thing with him is he tells me, ‘Don’t miss your pitch because you might not get it back again.”
Being so close to the big league club, Lindsey said he’s doing his best not to look ahead.
“At this level, you just have to go up there and play your game every day,” he said. “You have to prove yourself every day.”