VIERA, Fla. - Michael A. Taylor’s rare combination of power and speed has led him to be considered as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The 23-year-old made the jump to the majors in August 2014 and hit his first home run in his big league debut at Citi Field in New York.
Most would think that would easily be the highlight for his short stint in the majors, but the humble Taylor offered another when asked.
“I think being a part of the no-hitter was probably the highlight,” said Taylor, referring to Jordan Zimmermann’s gem on the last day of the 2014 season. “I wasn’t out for very long, but just to see that and be a part of that was exciting.”
After the home run, there weren’t many highlights for Taylor. He hit just .205 with 17 strikeouts in 39 at-bats in 17 games. He totaled 144 strikeouts between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse last year. He’s tweaked his plan at the plate a bit heading into this season.
“There’s no big drastic change, but a good two-strike approach is something that I’m always working on and focused on,” said Taylor. “I think making contact early in the count is a big thing for me, not getting to as many two-strike counts.”
Nationals manager Matt Williams has taken notice.
“The biggest thing I see with Michael is that he’s starting to recognize at the plate better,” said Williams. “That comes with time and with at-bats. He’s just able to recognize strikes and pitches that are not strikes, which allows him to get in better counts, which allows him to have more success. And that’s part of that process when you’re a young player.”
There’s a chance Jayson Werth may not be ready for the start of the season while he continues to rehab from shoulder surgery in January. Taylor is one of a handful of outfielders competing for the left field spot should Werth not make it back for opening day.
“That’s definitely not something I’m thinking about,” said Taylor. “I just want to come in and work on my game and try to get better every day and get ready for the season, and wherever I end up, I’ll be ready to play.”
If the Nationals choose to keep Taylor on the major league roster, there is concern that it could be a detriment to his continued growth considering he wouldn’t figure to see consistent playing time. Once Werth is healthy, he will play left field with Denard Span in center and Bryce Harper in right.
“It’s the same age-old decision that must be made regarding guys that are on the cusp of being big league ready and everyday players, and a question of depth on your team, too,” said Williams. “We saw that with Stephen Souza, so it’s a question of depth on your team, it’s a question of how much playing time they’re really going to get and are they really better served staying in the minor leagues and getting their at-bats until that opportunity arises. But Mike’s close. He’s really close.”
Taylor recognized last year that he needed to adjust to life in the majors.
“The biggest challenge for me was trying to keep everything the same,” he said. “Different environments, different stadiums, kind of a different routine and trying to continue what I’ve done in years past in the minors - but at the big league level.”
“I’m excited to get see some pitching and play some games. That’s definitely the best part.”