Legends On Deck

Exclusive Interview – LHP Tayler Saucedo – Blue Jays

Some people are born to be musicians, some people are born to be artists, some people are born to be doctors, and some people are born to be pitchers. Tayler Saucedo is the latter. At first glance, you would probably agree with me. The 6’5 185 pound left hander has the prototypical pitcher’s build and has an intimidating presence on the mound. However, appearance aside, once you learn about his approach to the game, the competitive fire that fuels him, and everything he has gone through to get where he is today, then you will begin to truly understand why this young man has found his calling. Saucedo was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time to tell us a little bit about his baseball career and the journey that led him to the professional ranks.

Saucedo’s father was in the Marines, so he moved around a lot when he was growing up. Born in Hawaii, Saucedo spent some time in Japan before settling in Washington. I asked him about whether he thought moving so much may have helped or hurt him when he was growing up and he told me “All of the moving around helped me prepare for being on the road a lot and being away from family. I was always ready to go wherever baseball took me to chase the dream. Traveling just became second nature to me.”

Saucedo did originally stay close to home to play collegiately at Tacoma Community College, but had a bad experience during his time there. In fact, it drove him to quit his sophomore year and question his love for the game. “It was a bad relationship from the start and in my sophomore year I ended up quitting and dropping out of school.” Saucedo shared. He went on to add that “I no longer enjoyed baseball and didn’t know what I wanted to do”.

However, when you’re born to be a pitcher, fate will come calling. A couple of months went by before he got a call from a school called Tennessee Wesleyan in Athens, TN. “They asked how my season was going and I told them I was no longer playing. They asked what happened and when I told them they responded with ‘good, we want to offer you a 70% scholarship.’ Saucedo admitted that he knew nothing about the school other than they had just won the NAIA championship the year before and they were the top team in the country at the time. Still, it was enough for him to take a visit. He told me “I visited the school and realized how much I missed baseball and committed.” He also had high praise for the coaching staff at Wesleyan. “Really without Billy Berry and Stephen Baker taking a chance on me, I more than likely wouldn’t be playing baseball right now”.

Photo by Mathew Carper

Saucedo had a rough first year in Athens and thought about hanging it up again. That is when new pitching coach Matt McCracken entered the picture. “I worked with McCracken all summer and ended up having the best year of my life” Saucedo told me. “Thanks to all three of those guys, I was able to get drafted and continue my childhood dream.”

After what was really an up and down college career, I had to ask Saucedo what his expectations were heading into the draft, he didn’t have any. “Just being able to be a part of that process was special. My agent gave me a slot of where he believed I would go, but I truly didn’t care. I just wanted a shot.” After the Toronto Blue Jays took him in the 21st round, he was going to get that shot. He had faced so much adversity to this point and there is no doubt it was a long journey, but Saucedo was doing what he was born to do. “Hearing my name get called was the proudest moment of my life” Saucedo said.

So this was it, he had made it to the professional ranks and it was time to showcase his stuff. He split time between Bluefield and Vancouver in 2015 where he went a combined 4-2 with a 2.48 ERA. He got the call up to full season ball with Lansing in 2016 and is on his second stint there this season. Putting the numbers aside, I was eager to ask Saucedo about his repertoire and his approach on the mound. He was open to sharing this information with me as he stated that he is “a pitcher that believes in coming straight at you, no secrets.” As if he wasn’t already intimidating enough while toeing the rubber, Saucedo had this to share “I pitch mad, kind of like Adam Sandler in Waterboy,” he said in a joking tone, but I certainly believe it is no joke. He went onto say “I’m thinking these hitters are taking my money and they are keeping me from making it to the show, the only way I can make it is to get these hitters out by any means necessary. They won’t be better than me.”

As far as his repertoire goes, Saucedo shared that he has five pitches; his four seam and two seam fastballs, a curveball, a slider, and a changeup. He told me exactly how he plans to use those pitches too. “I use a power approach. I’m going to fill up the zone with fastballs, get ahead, and that allows me to use my other pitches” Saucedo shared.  

While Saucedo is open about his approach on the mound, it didn’t take me long to realize he is open about all aspects of his game. He will be the first to admit when he has a bad outing and he told me about making the transition from a starter to a reliever after an up and down year in 2016. While he is mainly coming out of the bullpen this season, he has been called on to start a couple of games, so I was curious to know if that has an effect on the way he might approach the game. “My approach never changes, it’s everything I got whether I start or relieve” he told me. He added “My pitch count isn’t that high. I only have a certain amount of innings I can throw if I start so I have to give it all I got.”

Photo by Mathew Carper

Saucedo has always had great command with a low walk rate while being able to keep the ball in the ballpark, he isn’t a big stat guy himself, but I couldn’t help but notice his strikeout rate was way up so far this year while keeping the walks and homeruns down. I asked him if this was something he worked on in the off season or if his stuff was just working really well so far this season. He told me “I try not to pay attention to the numbers, I just do my job and try to help the team win, but it is something that one of the coaches, Rick Langford, helped me with in the off season. He just told me to throw my slider, curveball, and my off speed stuff with conviction.” He went on to say “Last year I struggled with consistency on my off speed stuff and was trying to make my pitches break more. Rick told me I had really good stuff, it was just about throwing it with complete conviction and wanting to put hitters away.” It was interesting to hear how that work in the offseason helped him mentally on the mound. “Now, I already see the hitter swinging and missing before I throw the pitch. I know mentally that I’m going to put you away.”

Saucedo has made strides not only in his pro career, but in his baseball career in general. He has faced adversity at every level and has always managed to come out better on the other side and keep moving up. I had to ask him what was next, what were his goals for the 2017 season? Saucedo said his goals were simple, “Be better than I was yesterday, grow and learn something new everyday, go up as many levels as I can in a season, and simply keep pushing myself to be the best I can be.”

Saucedo is a determined young pitcher with good stuff who seems to be getting better year in and year out. He will be the first one to admit the road hasn’t been easy and he didn’t always see himself here, but he eventually found his calling and is currently fulfilling his lifelong dream. To put it plain and simple, Tayler Saucedo was born to be a pitcher and he is doing what he was born to do.

Jake Berry
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Jake Berry

Contributing Writer at Legends On Deck®
Jake resides in Carrollton, GA and loves everything baseball. He is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan and enjoys traveling to watch their Minor League teams. He graduated from the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor's Degree in Sport Management. Jake is also a certified personal trainer and has a passion for fitness and weight lifting. You can find his personal site at berrysbaseball.com

You can also reach out to Jake at jberry@legendsondeck.com
Jake Berry
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