Michael Taylor: Checking in on the Nationals’ No. 3 prospect


Sep 23, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Michael Taylor (18) hits a RBI double during the fifth inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

One of the benefits of the offseason is that it gives us the opportunity to reflect on last season and look forward to next year and beyond – a future that will undoubtedly be shaped not only by the team’s current big league stars, but also by the youngsters that are working their way up the minor league ladder.

Over the next several weeks, we will be counting down the Nationals’ top-10 prospects (as ranked by MLB.com) and breaking down what they have accomplished so far in their young professional careers. We will also predict if and when they will be ready to contribute at the big league level and where we expect to see them in 2015.

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Some of these names are well-known throughout the baseball world, while others are players that you may never have heard of before. Regardless of how prominent these players are in the ever-evolving world of the game’s rising stars, all of them will have an impact on the future of the Nationals and it’s important to monitor their progress as they continue on their path to the big leagues.

Earlier this week we continued our series with newly-acquired right-hander Joe Ross and right-hander Erick Fedde, the team’s No. 5 and No. 4 prospects, respectively. Today we will continue our series with the Nationals’ No. 3 prospect, outfielder Michael Taylor.

Of all the prospects on our list, Taylor is probably the most likely to make an impact at the big league level in 2015. The speedy center fielder has been tearing it up in the minor leagues and many consider him to be the team’s center fielder of the future – a future that could start as early as next winter, when Denard Span is scheduled to become a free agent.

The Nationals selected Taylor in the 6th round of the 2009 First-Year Player draft. He was originally drafted as a shortstop but transitioned into an outfielder when he began his professional career.

Taylor, 23, quickly made his way through the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League team and Class A Hagerstown in 2010-2011 before earning a promotion to High-A Potomac in 2012. But inconsistency at the plate and trouble adjusting to breaking balls temporarily stalled Taylor’s progress and the young outfielder spent two full seasons at Potomac.

In 2013, however, Taylor showed signs of progress and turned in his best season with Potomac. The right-handed hitting outfielder batted .263 with 10 home runs and 87 RBIs while stealing 51 bases in 133 games.

Taylor’s improvement earned him a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg in 2014, where he had the best season of his professional career. In 98 games with Harrisburg, Taylor hit .313 with 22 home runs and 61 RBIs. The outfielder also scored 74 runs and stole 34 bases.

Taylor’s breakout season earned him an invitation to the Futures Game, where he went 1-4 from the leadoff spot for Team USA.

Taylor’s dominance at Double-A also earned him yet another promotion late last season, this time to Triple-A Syracuse, where he played 12 games before being called up to the big leagues in August.

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After four years in the minors, Taylor made his major league debut Aug. 12 against the New York Mets. And, not surprisingly, his debut was one to remember. After hitting a single in his first at bat, Taylor crushed a fastball from Carlos Torres over the right field fence for his first big league home run.

Overall, Taylor was solid in his first stint in the majors, hitting .205 with 5 RBIs in 17 games, mostly coming off the bench.

While he has improved in almost every aspect of his game, Taylor still struggles with breaking balls outside the zone and struck out 144 times in the minors last season. But if he continues to improve his consistency at the plate and cuts down on his strikeouts, Taylor could make the big league club as a bench player this spring.

With his improvement at the plate and the development of his power, along with his speed and defensive prowess in center field, Taylor is on the fast track to the big leagues and could develop into an elite, five-tool player. Denard Span may be the Nationals’ everyday center fielder right now, but Taylor is coming – and he’s coming fast.

Check back here tomorrow as we continue our Washington Nationals top-10 prospects countdown with No. 2, right-hander A.J. Cole.

Next: Nationals add catching depth, sign Omir Santos to minor-league deal