FAIRFAX, Va. - Center fielder Michael Taylor has returned from the Puerto Rican winter league and was honored Sunday as the 2013 Potomac Nationals Player of the Year at their 19th annual Hot Stove Banquet.
Taylor hit .365 for los Indios de Mayaguez with seven doubles, two triples, three homers and 10 RBIs. He scored 20 runs with 50 hits and earned a .428 on-base percentage. He had a span of five games where he smacked 10 hits in the final couple of weeks of his time in Puerto Rico.
“It is just a different level of baseball,” Taylor said about his experience. “You see kind of different sequences at the plate. It is a little different strategy. But it was good. It is still baseball and I had a good time.
“I saw a lot more splitters. You don’t see too much in high-A. I actually felt really good. I felt like my plate discipline was better and I was able to really lock in on my approach and just look for my pitch.”
His 36 games in Puerto Rico came at a time when he was selected to the Nationals 40-man roster.
“It is great,” Taylor said about the call to the 40-man. “I was very excited when I got the news and I am looking forward to the years to come.”
Taylor hit .263 with 41 doubles, six triples, 10 homers and 87 RBIs and 51 steals and was caught stealing only seven times in 133 games with Single-A Potomac. He turned in some clutch hits late in games as the P-Nats made it all the way to the Mills Cup final.
Taylor said working with hitting coach Mark Harris on his approach helped him become a better hitter as the season progressed.
“Definitely,” Taylor said. “I think I have been a real aggressive hitter for a while. I just try to tone down a little bit and be more selective and get a pitch to hit. It has kind of been a struggle at times, but it is a process and I think I am starting to figure it out.”
Taylor played center field exclusively in Puerto Rico and said he concentrated this summer on getting more precise defensively as well.
“I am always trying to get better in the field, running the bases and everything I do,” he said. “I really try to focus on the details and hopefully I get better every day. I feel comfortable out there.
“I think we had a great group in the outfield this year with Billy Burns, Caleb Ramsey and Randolph Oduber, Brandon Miller towards the end. We always had a game plan and we always communicated well when we were out there. I think it showed in our play. We really worked together and moved together as a unit in the outfield. Always fun to have somebody out there to your left and to your right and you know they have your back.”
Mayaguez is still in the playoffs, but they knew coming in that Taylor was going to have games and at-bat limits after a long minor league season.
“They were great to me down there and they understood my situation with this year and coming up,” Taylor said. “I kind of just had to listen to my body while I was down there and know that spring training, and the upcoming year I had to take care of my business. I appreciate them accepting that and understanding.
“I would have really liked to stay the whole time and go the whole way because I think they have a good chance of winning the championship down there. But it didn’t work out that way.”
It was also an interesting experience on the defensive side and speed of the ball on mostly Astroturf fields in Puerto Rico.
“It was something to get used to because all, but our home field were Astroturf and I am not used to that,” Taylor said. “But it is not too bad. They had a lot of rain down there so that was a challenge too, but I enjoyed it.”
He said he had played one game on Astroturf at Tropicana Field while in high school, but that was a better grade of Astroturf than what he played on in Puerto Rico. He also enjoyed the place he got to live in while on the island.
“I was in a good area,” Taylor said. “They set me up in a really nice place and I was able to go to a gym pretty close. So I was able to stick to my offseason routine for the most part while I was down there. I had a good experience seeing some of the beach and seeing some of the island.
“Eighty percent of the people there will speak English, but it is Spanish first. But once they realize you don’t speak Spanish, they will speak English.”
It is likely that Taylor will now be manning center field for Double-A Harrisburg this season but he is not banking on anything, he just wants to play.
“I am excited to play baseball,” Taylor said. “I am trying not to get to hung up on where I am going to be and wherever I end up I am going to go out there and play hard and have fun.”