Inside Brayden Taylor’s rise from Utah prospect to TCU baseball superstar


By Charles Baggarly

Before Brayden Taylor was a household name among TCU fans, head coach Kirk Saarloos met the Utah native for a recruiting visit in downtown Fort Worth at the Marriott Hotel.

Saarloos knew Taylor, a shortstop out of Copper Hills High School, could hit for contact, as he had a .461 career batting average. He certainly didn’t think he’d break the program home run record.

“When we first recruited [Taylor], he was 5’10” and about 150, 145 pounds,” Saarloos said. “I thought he was gonna be a good baseball player. … I didn’t think he would hit for this much power in his career.”

Taylor, now above six foot and weighing 180 pounds, quickly made his presence known in Fort Worth with Second Team All-Big 12 Conference seasons in his freshman and sophomore campaigns. In both years, he hit above .300 and had more than ten home runs.

Prior to his junior year, Taylor was named the Big 12 Conference Preseason Player of the Year. His third year as a Horned Frog, however, had a rough start; Prior to Big 12 play, Taylor endured a stretch where he tallied one hit in 22 at-bats.

“That was probably … the first time I ever saw Brayden [Taylor] … question his ability to hit,” Saarloos said. “And at some point every hitter, every great hitter, they’re going to go through that.”

As time moved forward, the rest of TCU’s lineup started to get hot, and so did Taylor, which allowed the star third baseman’s natural talent to take over. Now, Taylor boasts a .316 batting average and a whopping 22 home runs.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” Saarloos said. “This year hasn’t been easy. I think it says a lot about what’s inside his chest in terms of learning and understanding that, at the end of the year, he’s going to be where he thought he was going to be.”

In postseason play, Taylor, the Big 12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, is 15 for 24 with 21 RBIs. Even after ridiculous, video-game-like accomplishments, Taylor tends to direct the credit to his teammates.

“For me personally, just keeping it simple, keeping the approach simple, and being able to lean on my teammates,” Taylor said. “Knowing that, you know, if I don’t get the job done that the next guy will, and that’s kind of been our whole mindset these last few games.”

TCU’s home run king

After three dominant seasons, Taylor has created a strong legacy as one of the greatest players to wear the purple and white. On Friday, he extended TCU’s home run record to 47 with a go-ahead 3 RBI home run against Arizona.

Centerfielder Elijah Nunez, a teammate for three seasons, said it’s a privilege to watch Taylor’s legacy unfold.

“We literally watched [Taylor] leave a legacy at TCU that will go on for a while, and it’s been amazing just to see it unfold before my eyes,” Nunez said. “I can’t say enough about him. He’s amazing.”

At the end of the day, baseball is a basic sport, and Taylor focuses on keeping his approach simple. He’s trying to be on time for a good pitch to hit and wants to play the game to win; he doesn’t chase stats.

“[The home run record] is a nice stat to have,” Taylor said. “For me, I try not to get caught up in all the numbers. Just going out there and playing the game how it’s supposed to be played.”

Even with the talent Taylor holds, don’t be surprised if he lays a bunt down the third base line facing a shift. Associate head coach TJ Bruce said Taylor looks for situations to help the team in any way he can.

“That’s the player that [Taylor] is,” Bruce said.

Leading the Horned Frogs by example

Taylor is a quiet person. He’s not too vocal, but his teammates still look to him as a leader.

“He’s not a rah, rah guy, and he kind of just comes and does his job,” Saarloos said. “But I think guys respect him for the fact that he’s done it for three years.”

Saarloos mentioned that teammates tend to look up to the best player. It has allowed Taylor to lead by example. 

“That comes with a lot of responsibility for Brayden,” Saarloos said.

Taylor is leading a group of young freshmen, including catcher Karson Bowen and shortstop Anthony Silva; Bowen and Silva have had stellar starts to their collegiate careers, tallying .353 and .344 batting averages, respectively.

In 2021, Taylor soaked up knowledge from older, wiser teammates. Now, he is prepared to guide the next generation of TCU baseball. 

“Guys like Zach Humphreys, Conner Shepherd, Austin Henry,” Taylor said. “All those guys taking us as freshmen under their wings. They showed us what college baseball really meant. For me, I’m just trying to take parts of what they did for me and try to apply it to my style.”

After Taylor tied the program record, Bowen gave Taylor a hug at home plate. He said it’s been nice to rally behind Taylor’s accomplishments.

“It’s his third year here, and he’s been the leader all along,” Bowen said.

Silva learns from watching Taylor’s relaxation at the plate. 

“[Taylor] helps me out in the field too,” Silva said. “Or whenever something is wrong with me, he just lets me know.”

Respect is earned

By speaking with Taylor’s teammates, one can tell the amount of respect he holds within the program. After Taylor recorded four hits and six RBIs against Arizona, relief pitcher Luke Savage, a teammate for three seasons, said it’s “hard to put into words” what it’s like watching the veteran third baseman play baseball.

“Every time [Taylor] comes to the plate, it feels like something special is about to happen,” Savage said.

When Nunez first met Taylor, he wondered who the kid from Utah was and what he would become. He was unaware of the impact Taylor would have on himself and TCU’s program.

“I don’t know who this kid is,” Nunez recalled thinking. “But over the years we’ve grown to really love each other, and we’re real brothers. And I just can’t say enough about him. He’s a phenomenal player, and he’s a phenomenal human. So I’m glad he’s on my team.”

After breaking the home run record, Taylor could feel the love from his teammates and coaches.

“It just really showed me that this is a lot bigger than baseball,” Taylor said. “I’m very grateful for all the friendships and the brotherhood that I’ve made during my time here.”

During said time, Taylor has grown to love “everything” about TCU. 

“I haven’t had many complaints since being here,” Taylor said. “You know, I can’t ask for much more. I’ve met my lifelong friends here.”

TCU and Arkansas were scheduled to play on Saturday, but rain delays caused the game to be postponed to Sunday. The game is planned to commence at 2 p.m. at Baum-Walker Stadium. Taylor will continue to “keep it simple” for the Horned Frogs.