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La Salle freshman outfielder Devin Taylor turning heads on the diamond this spring

'I’ve never seen a freshman hit the way he does'
Posted at 6:00 AM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 19:36:29-04

GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Devin Taylor likes playing PlayStation 4 and listening to retro rhythm and blues. He's been on the honor roll.

The La Salle freshman left fielder also happens to be one of the state’s top baseball players.

“Honestly, I’ve never seen a freshman hit the way he does in all my years,” La Salle coach Greg Leurck said. “This is my 21st year coaching. He does things I’ve never seen a young kid do. He does things you can’t coach.”

Taylor, 15, is hitting .469 with a .500 on-base percentage for the Lancers (10-8). He leads the Greater Catholic League South division in home runs (3), hits (30) and RBI (29), and he is second in batting average.

He moved from the No. 8 position in the lineup at the start of the season to the cleanup spot and has impressed his coaches, opposing teams and college programs along the way.

Taylor is ranked the No. 1 outfielder in Prep Baseball Report's Ohio Class of 2022, the state's No. 3 overall player and the country's No. 16.

“Devin has all the physical tools you’d expect from an elite prospect,” said Prep Baseball Report scouting director Jordan Chiero. “His swing is efficient, his bat speed is advanced, and he has impressive strength through contact. However, what separates Devin and makes him one of, if not the top pure hitter in the state, is his approach. He knows the zone very well, rarely expanding it.”

College programs from the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Big East, Atlantic Coast Conference and the American Athletic Conference have all expressed interest or made scholarship offers. Leurck said he has seen at least eight different programs at La Salle home games, and many have attended more than once.

“I knew we had something really special once I started to get some calls and texts from college coaches back in August,” he said. “I was like, ‘This kid is going to be pretty good if these coaches are already calling.’”

Despite the attention, Taylor, who also played junior varsity basketball for the Lancers this past winter, has taken the spotlight in stride and doesn’t appear to be fazed by the many college coaches watching his every move.

“It’s not really any pressure,” Taylor said. “I just feel like I have to play my best. I have to play the same game that I play when they are not here. It’s just coming to me naturally right now.”

Leurck doesn’t tell Taylor which college coaches attend each game. He wants his young standout to give the maximum effort at all times. As with any freshman, Taylor's defense and base running can always improve.

Offensively, however, he is ahead of the curve.

“He somehow knows what the pitcher is pitching half the time,” Leurck said. “He is waiting on a pitch, and he gets it and rips it. That and you watch him go through his warm-ups even right before a pitch, and it almost looks like Joey Votto — just practicing getting the hands through and the barrel following there and keeping the hands inside the ball.

"He doesn’t pull it all the time. He hits it to all fields, and it’s not just fastballs — it’s breaking balls that he hits, so he’s out there making the most of what they give him.”

La Salle basketball coach Pat Goedde said Taylor takes a cerebral approach in the batter's box.

“His swing is unbelievable," he said. "And I hate using names but a Ken Griffey-type swing. Really smooth and he makes contact every time. He doesn’t strike out very much.”

Goedde said Taylor likely will be on the varsity basketball team next winter. His poise as a student-athlete is also very evident.

“He’s got an immense amount of ability and talent,” Goedde said. “Not just on the field. I’m talking off the field. He’s like the caliber of a (former Northwestern running back and La Salle graduate) Jeremy Larkin, and that’s high praise. He’s very soft-spoken, but he carries himself so well that it’s just a joy to be around a kid like that.”

La Salle freshman Devin Taylor has interest from multiple major college baseball conference programs.

Taylor, who lives in Pleasant Run Farms, grew up around baseball.

His father, Carey Taylor, played at Aiken High School (Class of 1988) and later Thomas More. Carey Taylor attended old Schwab Middle School in Northside, where Ken Griffey Jr. was a year ahead of him in the early 1980s.

Although Devin was in elementary school when Griffey retired in 2010, Devin said the Hall of Famer and former Moeller standout is his favorite player after having watched numerous YouTube clips and becoming familiar with him from the "MLB The Show" game on PS4.

“I just like his swing and how he covered the whole outfield when had the chance,” Taylor said. “It’s amazing.”

Although Taylor has drawn some significant praise, his father said his character off the diamond speaks volumes. He's careful not to place any undue pressure on his son.

“He is pretty humble, pretty quiet,” Carey Taylor said. “We are proud of a lot of things other than sports. I want people to know who he is instead of just Devin the ball player.”

Taylor, who has played baseball since he was 4, said his experience at La Salle has surpassed his expectations. He admits he’s a small piece of a bigger puzzle on a team filled with more than a dozen seniors. That humble approach has worked well this spring with teammates and coaches.

“My dream is to go to the MLB,” Taylor said. “Of course, it’s like all baseball players, really. I am trying to figure my way out, work my hardest, get a lot of swings in and field a lot as much as I can when I have free time.”