How cool is playing in front of your home-town fans as a professional? That’s what Stephen Gaylor is doing right now with the Rome Braves. The speedy outfielder is as big of a longshot as you might find in the system, but that also helps to make him one of those guys that it is impossible not to root for.
Gaylor was born in Rome on a pretty exciting day. Just southeast at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the Braves beat the Astros 5-2 behind Steve Avery‘s 18th win of the year. Out west, the Giants beat the Dodgers 4-1. These two events put the Braves into first place in the NL West with two games left. The Braves would clinch the division the next night. Gaylor would letter graduate from Rome High School and began his college education at George Southwestern State, hitting .270 as a freshman. However, he would soon transfer to Berry College in Mount Berry, GA. The transfer would prove to be a great decision as Gaylor was a two-time All-Southern Athletic Association selection with the Vikings and over a three-year stretch, Gaylor set the Berry record for stolen bases with 87. During his career with the NCAA Division III college, Gaylor hit .372 and walked more than he struck out.
But as the 2014 draft ended, Gaylor’s name was never called. That led to a two-month period where Gaylor was done as a college player and didn’t have a professional contract. This fortunately changed on August 11th of 2014 when Gaylor signed with the Braves. The scout that signed him was Brian Bridges, also of Rome, GA. Bridges would later be promoted to the scouting director after the season as part of the internal shake-up highlighted by Frank Wren’s firing.
Gaylor would play in just nine games after joining the Gulf Coast League. He had 13 hits in 40 at-bats, good for a .325 average, while swiping a pair of bases. To open 2015, Gaylor was probably still in extended spring training with a likely spot on the Danville roster when he received a promotion in mid-May due to roster shake-ups. He would get a two-steal game in his second outing, but hit just .233 over ten games before getting “demoted” to Danville. I say that in quotes because the Danville season wouldn’t begin for another month. Once it did, he faced the new Pulaski Yankees in their inaugural game. In his first APPY League game, Gaylor tripled and stole a base. He would play one more game with the D-Braves before he was promoted back to Rome. This time, he remembered to bring his bat. This was highlighted by a July 9th game in Augusta when Gaylor went 4-for-5 with a double and triple. He’s raised his Rome average to .274 while his OBP is .349.
In the end, Gaylor is what he is. Of his 41 professional hits, three are doubles and three are triples. He has not homered. While he was a prolific base stealer in college, his stolen base totals since signing with the Braves have been modest (10-for-12 in 41 games). He shows pretty decent plate discipline. Overall, he’s a speedy athlete who can play a decent enough center field and hit for average, but he has a long way to go to be a prospect.
Still, you want to hope he becomes a real prospect. An undrafted free agent out of Rome, GA who is playing for Rome? I just had an idea for a novel! You can follow Gaylor on Twitter.