Michael Taylor shows promise in limited opportunities in 2014

brandonconner
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The Nationals’ rise to the top of the National League is a direct result of their ability to acquire and develop their own talent. Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon are all former draft picks who have made significant contributions so far, and there’s no sign that Mike Rizzo will let the talent pool dry up any time soon. Washington’s minor league system continues to climb the ranks year after year.

Michael Taylor is one of the key parts of that system, and in 2014, the Nationals’ sixth round pick from 2009 logged his first playing time in the majors. It was a brief introduction to the big stage, but for the Nats, it helped provide a glimpse into the future.

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For a young player, a first game is always memorable for obvious reasons, but Taylor’s first one turned out to be particularly exciting. In just his third at bat, Turner turned on a pitch and sent it into the stands. On a night when the Nats beat the Mets 7-1, the win seemed almost an afterthought. Taylor was the talk of the night. He finished 2-4 with two runs batted in.

From there, the excitement died down some. Taylor played in 17 games over the course of his short stay in DC, logging 43 plate appearances in which he hit .205/.279/.359. He managed to crank out three doubles, though he never went yard again.

Defensively, Taylor did have a perfect fielding percentage in his limited time, and he looked like he has the potential to be an everyday outfielder. His fielding scores were positive (though small due to his game count).

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Probably the most impressive defensive number for Taylor was his UZR/150, which standardizes a player’s Ultimate Zone Rating number to 150 games. Taylor’s UZR/150 was 12.2. By comparison, Denard Span had a UZR/150 of -4.5 in 2014; Bryce Harper’s was -0.8. Obviously the small sample size comes into play here, but Nationals fans can certainly hope that they’ll see more of the same when Taylor becomes a regular in the lineup.

The question for Taylor is when that will happen. Because the Nationals have picked up Denard Span’s option for 2015, the most common outfield alignment will consist of Harper in left, Span in center, and Werth in right.

However, the departure of Adam LaRoche means Ryan Zimmerman will be taking his talents to first base. This opens the door for Taylor to possibly land the fourth outfielder role on the team. Nate McLouth may have the inside track to that spot on the roster, but it’s conceivable the team could enter spring with an open competition for the spot.

Whatever happens going into 2015, Nationals fans have to feel confident that they have a player who has the potential to be a solid contributor for them for several years. Perhaps 2014 was just a preview of greatness yet to come.

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