Double-A Harrisburg Senators center fielder Michael Taylor has made big steps this season at the plate. Taylor is batting .323 through 88 games with 110 hits. Last season, he hit .263. He has 16 doubles, two triples, 18 homers, 27 stolen bases and 54 RBIs. Last season for high Single-A Potomac, he had 10 homers in 133 games.
Harrisburg batting coach Mark Harris, who has worked with Taylor for a few seasons on his approach and swing, was the hitting coach for Team USA at the Futures Game on Sunday in Minneapolis. Taylor, one of the top prospects in the Nationals organization, led off and went 1-for-4 in the 3-2 Team USA victory before 30,000 at Target Field.
Harris explains why Taylor is so improved this season with the bat.
"(He has made) progress and a couple of mechanical changes, shortening his load up. I think that he's more consistent now in his base to hit from," Harris said. "Therefore, he's able to recognize pitches better, lay off some chase pitches. His percentage of putting the ball in play is much better.
"When Michael puts the ball in play he has a got a chance to get a hit. That was probably the thing that he focused on more than anything in the winter, as far as when he went to Puerto Rico, and into spring. Sort of a different guy, with realization of that, and I think if you look and see his two-strike hits this year compared to last year, I would easily say he's got more this year than he did last year. He's just putting the ball in play."
Taylor must still to reduce his strikeout totals, 116 this season and 131 last year. He is learning not to go after sliders in the dirt, but that is a process even major leaguers still battle with every game.
"He's still striking out some," Harris said. "But he's going to strike out some. But the idea of putting the ball in play and giving himself a chance is going to raise his average immensely."
Already he has pushed his average up 60 points from last season.
Taylor has all the tools to be a very good leadoff hitter and center fielder in the show. His OBP is .404 this season, compared to .340 with Potomac in 2013. As long as he can get on base, his tools can take over from there.
Defensively, he is a joy to watch work the outfield, as Nationals first base coach Tony Tarasco explained, and this season is a clear example of how quickly he can adapt and thrive against some of the best pitching prospects in the nation. His play in the Futures Game allows the rest of baseball to see what the Nationals already knew.