2015 Washington Nationals Player Reviews: Michael Taylor
By Ricky Keeler
Coming into this season, it was unknown as to what role Michael Taylor (.229, 14 HR, 63 RBI’s) would have on the Washington Nationals. He played in 17 games during the 2014 season and hit one home run with five RBI’s, but Taylor spent most of that season at double-A Harrisburg. Due to Denard Span having to undergo surgery on his core muscle in spring training, Taylor went from being possibly in triple-A Syracuse at the beginning of the year to being the opening day center fielder and the leadoff hitter at the big league level.
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During the early part of the season, Taylor struggled to take command of center field and made some rookie mistakes, but he did get comfortable in the outfield as the season went on, whether it was in center field or in left field when Span returned to the lineup.
Taylor did play in eight games at triple-A Syracuse from April 21-28, but was called back up to the team on April 29. After struggling at the plate the first two months, Taylor found his form in the month of June. The 24-year-old hit .283 (highest average in any month) with a home run and nine RBI’s.
After the month of June, Taylor would drive in 14 RBI’s in each of the next two months and he quickly established himself as one of the team’s best clutch hitters. This year, he hit .317 (highest average on the team) with three home runs and 47 RBI’s in 104 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The 47 RBI’s were fourth on the team behind Wilson Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bryce Harper.
While Taylor struggled out of the leadoff spot (.201 batting average), he became a solid force at the bottom of the order for the Nats as he had a .313 on-base percentage out of the number eight spot in the order. However, one thing the young outfielder needs to work on is cutting down the strikeouts. Taylor struck out 158 times this year (second behind Ian Desmond).
Depending on whether or not the Nationals bring back Span in free agency, Taylor could be the everyday center fielder next season after playing in 138 games this year. Even going into his age-25 season, Taylor will be one of the players this team relies on for his speed. His 16 stolen bases were the most of any player on the Nats this year.
The one moment I will look back on in terms of Michael Taylor’s season occurred on May 13 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. After entering the game late due to Harper being ejected from the game. During his lone at-bat of the game, he hit a go-ahead grand slam off Addison Reed in the top of the ninth inning to help the Nats come from behind and get a 9-6 win.
All in all, the 2015 season was a good learning experience for Taylor as he was able to play everyday and produce on a regular basis. His 63 RBI’s were the fourth most of any rookie to go with his 14 home runs. He was put right into the lineup because of Span’s injuries and was able to handle his own. The future looks bright for one of the Nats’ top young players going into the 2016 season.