May 2013 Prospect Profile: Taylor Dugas
In 2011, Dugas was an eighth-round draft pick of the Cubs, but he chose to return to the University of Alabama for his senior season. After hitting .343 last spring and leaving the Crimson Tide as the school’s all-time leader in hits (as well as singles, doubles, and triple), he was again an eighth-round pick…but this time, the selection was made by the franchise he had grown up loving.“The Yankees have been my favorite team forever, so getting drafted by them was very special,” Dugas said.
That might sound odd coming from someone born in raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, but Dugas has good reason: his parents are good friends with Yankees legend Ron Guidry and his wife, and even though “Gator” threw his final pitch more than a year before Dugas was even born, the youngster has bled pinstripes for all of his 23-plus years.That said, when Dugas re-entered the draft, he almost went to the enemy. As Dugas recalled to the Daily News in a 2012 interview, the Boston Red Sox called him during the sixth round of the draft and told him he would be their selection; however, things changed, and the Sox took Fresno State pitcher Justin Henry at No. 211 overall instead – but two rounds and 66 picks later, Dugas’ frustration turned to elation when the Yankees called and said he was their guy.
“Things change with the draft all the time,” Dugas told the Daily News. “I was playing the waiting game for a while. I was just really excited when the Yankees called. It’s crazy how it worked out.”
He may look the part of the prototypical “scrappy” player at just 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, but Dugas put up quite a debut in Staten Island last summer, hitting .306 with a .465 on-base percentage in 59 games. He began 2013 by moving up to Class-A Charleston, and while this is his first “full season” in the pros, Dugas, like fellow 2012 draftee Taylor Garrison, said last year was perhaps the harder adjustment.
“Last year was a long one for me coming from college; we had a long fall, then spring games, and then I got drafted and played all summer. It was a grind, and my body got kind of tired toward the end, but really having that offseason to have some time off and get away a bit was nice,” Dugas said. “Around December I started to pick up the bats and get back into baseball shape, and it’s been good so far.”
After some rejuvenation, Dugas reported to Yankees camp early, getting some one-on-one instruction with the coaches on both hitting and fielding that made him stronger mentally and physically as he prepared to tackle the new grind of 140-plus games at the pro level.
“I think (reporting early) benefitted me a lot; I really enjoyed it, and it was good to get some at-bats and get in the swing of things,” Dugas said. “Spring Training went really well and I worked on a lot of things there, and so far this season my body feels great; I know we still have a long way to go, but I think the work I did in the offseason is going to help me as summer goes on.”
So far, that adjustment has gone well; through June 9, Dugas had posted a .259-1-17 line in 51 games for Charleston, ranking second on the squad with nine steals and third among active players with a .394 on-base percentage.
He’s clearly fighting for face time – especially with four of the organization’s Top 10 prospects occupying four of the six outfield slots at Double-A Trenton and High-A Tampa – but Dugas welcomes being part of the competition and hopes to rise above it.
“There are definitely a lot of talented outfielders here, and I think that’s great, because with all that talent, it brings out a lot of competition in everybody,” Dugas said. “Coming from college, competition has been one of the things we learned most. I’m having a blast with it, but you can’t really worry about everyone else; you have to go about your business and try to improve every day.”
And, being a life-long Yankees fan, he’s learned to watch a thing or two from one guy who has always found a way to come out on top.
“Derek Jeter has definitely been my favorite player since I was growing up, and something I’ve always liked about him is that he’s a winner and a great teammate,” Dugas said. “He’s the Captain of the Yankees and he’s been through so much…he’s the definition of a true winner, and I’ve tried to observe things about him, because I feel that if you try to do things like he does, you’re on the right track.”