In a lineup where he has been overshadowed by top hitting prospects such as Gary Sanchez, Peter O’Brien, and Mason Williams, Trenton Thunder outfielder Taylor Dugas has flown under the radar as one of the team’s top hitters through the first half of the Eastern League season.
Playing in Double-A for the first time at age 24, Dugas has been a consistent force at the plate for the Thunder. Just two years after being the Yankees’ 8th-round draft choice in the Amateur Draft, he has needed little time to adjust to the more advanced Eastern League pitching, entering Thursday’s game with a .307/.429/.440 batting line. However, just because he has excelled at the plate does not mean he has taken anything for granted.
“The thing I’ve noticed is the more quality pitching,” Dugas indicated. “[Pitchers] have better feel for the zone [and are] definitely locating their off-speed pitches better.”
Dugas appeared to be ready to take on Double-A right off the bat after being a somewhat surprising addition to Trenton’s roster out of spring training. He immediately earned playing time and the trust of manager Tony Franklin when he sprung out of the gate with an 18-game hitting streak and 25-game on-base streak beginning the third game of the season. The streak immediately brought confidence that Dugas could compete at an advanced level.
“That was a nice little streak I had,” Dugas commented. “Definitely that does help with confidence, and whenever you get on a roll like that, it feels good.”
“I kind of think where that comes from is me knowing my role as a player,” Dugas added. “I’ve always been the type that tries to get on base as much as possible. I feel like whenever I’m on base, it gives us the best chance to win, to make things happen, score runs, things like that.”
His ability to make things happen when in the lineup has not gone unnoticed. Tony Franklin indicated that Dugas caught his eye quickly this season by showing consistency at the plate that many in the Thunder’s prospect-laden lineup have not.
“Those two [Dugas and fellow Thunder outfielder Ben Gamel] and [Rob] Refsnyder were probably the three most consistent guys on the club,” Franklin mentioned when discussing his team’s issues with being consistent at the plate.
Despite his consistency, Dugas has always seen room for improvement in his game as he continues a quest to break into a Yankee outfield that already appears poised to be overcrowded for years to come.
“I would say just staying consistent,” Dugas replied when asked where his game needed the most development. “Baserunning a little bit. Those types of areas. When you play every day against quality pitching and quality opponents, it can be a grind and it can be tough, so I’m just trying to keep that consistency level up there.”
A grinding schedule and a little adversity are two things which are nothing new to Dugas. The University of Alabama’s all-time hits leader spent four years battling through the hostile environments of the SEC, one of college baseball’s premier conferences. That experience he gained in college has gone a long way towards helping him find success during the early stages of his professional career.
“One of the things I was lucky to experience was playing in front of large crowds and playing in pretty hostile environments,” Dugas said. “Through playing [in] those environments, I learned a lot. You definitely learn to go through some adversity and things like that. In college, it’s tough. You’ve got to play through a lot of that, and I think it’s helped me along the way.”
Though considered a long shot by many to make the major leagues someday, Dugas could someday get the opportunity of a lifetime should the numbers continue as they have during his first two months in Double-A. If Dugas ever does make it to the major leagues, the adversity and the challenges he has faced throughout college and within the minors should leave him well prepared for the fight to hold onto a lifelong dream.