As our offseason coverage kicks into high gear, we’re going to review each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Michael A. Taylor, who spent most of the year in the minors but wound up a significant contributor in the postseason.
PLAYER REVIEW: MICHAEL A. TAYLOR
Age on opening day 2020: 29
How acquired: Sixth-round pick, 2009 draft
MLB service time: 4 years, 129 days
2019 salary: $3.25 million
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2020, free agent in 2022
2019 stats: 53 G, 97 PA, 88 AB, 10 R, 22 H, 7 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 6 SB, 0 CS, 7 BB, 34 SO, .250 AVG, .305 OBP, .364 SLG, .669 OPS, 70 OPS+, 0 DRS, 0.0 fWAR, 0.0 bWAR
2019 postseason stats: 8 G, 23 PA, 21 AB, 4 R, 7 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 7 SO, .333 AVG, .391 OBP, .619 SLG, 1.010 OPS
Quotable: “I think the more you’re here, the more you get comfortable in these situations. When the stadium gets loud and there’s a lot of pressure, you just try to slow it down and just play the game as normal as possible. That’s big.” - Taylor, on his postseason success
2019 analysis: Though he spent most of the season’s first half with the Nationals, Taylor didn’t play much, not with Victor Robles establishing himself as the team’s everyday center fielder and with Juan Soto and Adam Eaton mostly staying healthy to leave no vacancies in the outfield. Not that Taylor did much to merit more playing time: On June 23, he was batting .211 with a .553 OPS and 32 strikeouts in only 85 plate appearances.
It was an all-too-familiar performance for Taylor, and it led to his demotion to Double-A Harrisburg, where he didn’t perform a whole lot better (.248 batting average, .787 OPS in 57 games). But the Nationals recalled him in September once rosters expanded, and he went 5 for his last 6 to finish the regular season on a high note and earn a spot on the postseason bench.
That’s when he impressively took off. Taylor was part of the game-winning rally in the National League wild card game, getting hit in the hand by a Josh Hader pitch to keep the bottom of the eighth going and ultimately set up Soto’s season-saving hit. And when Robles strained his hamstring during the NL Division Series, Taylor was thrust into the lineup as the starting center fielder. He proceeded to morph back into the postseason threat that won him so many fans in 2017 against the Cubs. After all that, Taylor wound up playing a significant role in the Nationals’ first run to a World Series title.
2020 outlook: So, now what? Well, with Soto, Robles and Eaton all returning next season, there again is no spot for Taylor in the Nationals’ starting lineup. He could certainly return as the fourth outfielder, especially if the club doesn’t re-sign Gerardo Parra.
There is one catch this time around that hasn’t been an issue before: Taylor is now out of minor league options. So he’ll either need to make the opening day roster or else be placed on waivers and offered to other clubs. Which is why the Nats could see what kind of trade value he has this winter.
They’ve treaded down this path before and to date have always elected to keep Taylor and hope he can deliver for them when needed. Based on what we saw last month, that wouldn’t be the worst idea. But one of these days, a moment of truth is going to come for Taylor and the Nationals. Is he a long-term fixture, or at some point will the time come to part ways with a talented player who just has never been able to put it all together for long stretches?