Taylor Motter has never been regarded as a top prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays, and he never will be. A 17th round pick out of Coastal Carolina in 2011, Motter has methodically worked his way through the Rays system, topping out at Double-A this season. He turned 25 in September, making him older than 8 players on the Rays’ 40-man roster, all but one of whom have already seen big league time. However, don’t let the above statements belie the fact that Motter has the ability to make an impact for the Rays nonetheless.
In 2014, for the first time in his career, Taylor Motter was below the average age in the league he was in. The numbers say that it didn’t faze him too much. Motter hit to a .294/.326/.436 line with 19 doubles, 16 homers, 61 RBI, and 15 stolen bases in 506 plate appearances for the Montgomery Biscuits. He made an excellent amount of contact, striking out just 71 times (14.0% of his plate appearances) while walking 31 times. Even more impressive was that Motter did so while playing six different positions: the three outfield spots, shortstop, second base, and third base.
Motter’s versatility has always been an asset for him, but we continuously wondered how well he would hit against higher-level competition. The fact that he played well in 2014 certainly doesn’t mean he will be able to continue to do so, but seeing him pull it off for one year inspires confidence. In fact, his efforts were enough Baseball America’s Matt Eddy speak highly of him in a recent chat.
"The truly unheralded Montgomery player is middle infielder-turned-RF Taylor Motter, who is a manager’s favorite because he excels at so many little facets of the game: he makes contact, he bunts, he moves runners, he throws (24 assists in the outfield), he runs and he covers multiple positions. The Coastal Carolina product would have played more middle infield at Montgomery if not for the presence of Brett and Hager, but his wide range of skills should get him to the big leagues as a part-timer at SS, 2B and in the OF."
The funny thing about the “little facets” that Eddy mentions is that they matter so little if a player doesn’t hit. Just being a scrappy, hard-working player is never enough by itself. Motter has some skills, though, and it makes a utility role for him in the big league more likely. There is also the one part of the game that Eddy didn’t mention: Motter’s newfound power.
Motter’s 16 home runs were significant because he had hit 13 combined across 820 plate appearances in his first three minor league seasons. Suddenly, basically out of nowhere, Motter found the power stroke that he had been lacking his entire career. Will he be able to keep it up? The fact that his increased power was accompanied by a decrease in walk rate from 13.2% his first three seasons to 6.7% in 2014 may be one piece of evidence to support the theory Motter’s power surge will not last. On the other hand, Motter’s strikeout rate actually went down, and more at-bats as a more power-oriented player could help him find the right combination of power and discipline.
Despite his recent success, Taylor Motter is taking nothing for granted. He is currently playing for the Bravos de Margarita in the Venezuelan Winter League as he attempts to further his improvements from this season and prepare for his next major test: Triple-A. Motter has always said and done the right things, and we kept waiting to see whether any of his efforts would matter. After his breakout season at Double-A, Motter has shown us that everything he does just might be enough for him to carve out a role in the major leagues.