NEW YORK — Mark Germann had a gut feeling about Mike Tauchman.
Turns out, his instincts were correct.
Before Germann was promoted to major league scout for the Colorado Rockies in 2014, he served as a midwest area scout for the organization for 11 years. And during that time, Germann came across Tauchman, a mid-major outfielder at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.
“I really thought he would hit. I really thought he was a major-league hitter,” Germann told Yahoo Sports.
Six years after the Rockies selected Tauchman in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB draft, Tauchman has transformed himself into just that — as a New York Yankee.
After being acquired by the Yankees right before the end of spring training in exchange for minor-league pitcher Phillip Diehl, Tauchman — better known as “The Sock Man” — has taken full advantage of his increased playing time due to various injuries on the decimated club.
The 28-year-old, who is making just $557,000 in 2019, has managed to post a .301/.375/.581 slash line with 12 homers and 41 RBIs while playing stellar defense (11 defensive runs saved).
In July, he hit .423 with a .750 slugging percentage, becoming just the third Yankee in franchise history to post those marks in the month (minimum 50 plate appearances), joining Babe Ruth (four times) and Joe DiMaggio (twice).
“That’s the fun thing, when they finally do make some kind of impact at the major-league level, and you’re like, ‘I knew it,’” said Germann, who has signed nine MLB players in two decades as an area scout for multiple teams, including Tauchman.
“It’s a crapshoot. There’s a lot of luck involved. It doesn’t always happen — a lot of times because the opportunity never presents itself, or they get a chance and never get that second chance, or they get two chances and they never get a third chance.
“Baseball is a very strange game. The league adjusts to you, you adjust back, and then [they adjust] back again. All of these advanced [scouts] are trying to figure out your weak spots. It’s not easy being a major league hitter and having a long career, so hopefully he’s on that path now.”
Tauchman’s path to the big leagues
For Mike Tauchman, the road to major league success has been long and windy.
Tauchman hit just eight homers in his college career. And hamstring issues contributed to him going undrafted as a junior. But Germann liked Tauchman’s balanced and efficient approach at the plate and felt his average raw power would eventually materialize with experience.
As a senior, Tauchman led all Division I players with a .425 batting average en route to capturing Missouri Valley Player of the Year honors.
“He wanted to be the best, and he would do anything and everything possible to put himself in that position,” Bradley baseball coach Elvis Dominguez told Yahoo Sports. “It got to the point of him sometimes overworking, but that’s what drove him. He was never satisfied. The success that he’s having now is due to hard work, dedication and opportunity.”
Around the seventh or eighth round of the 2013 MLB draft, Germann made his case to Rockies VP of scouting Bill Schmidt in the team’s war room, telling Schmidt that Colorado should pull the trigger on Tauchman.
“You get gut feels on guys,” Germann said. “And Mike was certainly a gut-feel guy. I told Bill, ‘This kid is a major league hitter. I don’t know how many of these other guys are that are still on the board. I really believe he is.’”
Schmidt, who allows his scouts to be in the room and go to bat for players they’re high on, gave the OK. “‘All right, Mark. We’re going to take (Pat Valaika in the ninth round) and then we’re going to take Mike in the next round,’” Schmidt said.
Tauchman managed to hit at every level in the minors, and his power eventually came in 2017-18, when he managed to sock a combined 36 homers at Triple-A Albuquerque. But he struggled in two brief cameos with the Rockies, going a combined 9-for-59 in 52 games — mostly as a pinch-hitter.
The Yankees were the beneficiaries.
Mike Tauchman vs. Jimmy Garoppolo
Yankees GM Brian Cashman and the rest of his front office continue to nail their seemingly minor position-player moves.
On the surface, they appear insignificant. In reality, that’s not the case at all.
The Yankees had long been interested in Tauchman, with their scouting and analytics departments both believing the organization could further tap into his potential.
“Their people collectively thought there was more in there,” a source told Yahoo Sports. “They liked his versatility, being able to play all three spots. He’s valuable. He makes a lot of winning types of plays that don’t show up in the box score.”
Despite being a useful role player, Tauchman had to endure a couple of stints at Triple-A Scranton. But he’s turned into much more than that since July. This week alone, he’s hit five homers while also robbing Baltimore Oriole Pedro Severino of a homer with a highlight-reel catch.
“You look at him and he’s a good f—ing athlete and a strong kid,” said one scout, who believes Tauchman has staying power. “All he needed was an opportunity.”
Tauchman’s athletic prowess dates back to his high school days when he quarterbacked William Fremd to victory over Jimmy Garoppolo’s team as a senior — throwing the game-winning touchdown pass and also picking off the now San Francisco 49ers signal-caller.
“It’s a cool story, but it’s kind of weird to talk about it,” Tauchman told the Daily Herald. “I don’t want to sound like the guy at the bar that struck out Bryce Harper when he was nine years old. Jimmy’s really, really good now. I think we both chose the right sports.”
Can Mike Tauchman — overnight baseball sensation — keep it up?
“Hopefully,” Germann said. “I have no reason to think he can’t.”
“Mike never had an ego, but he always believed he was the best player on the field,” Dominguez said. “To see him achieving his dream — to me as a coach that’s been doing this 33 years — he’s so humble about it, he’s a gamer, a throwback type of player. It’s great that he’s having this type of success. I’m so proud of him, absolutely.”
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