Washington Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor is in the midst of an impressive breakout season, but that is now on hold due to a mild oblique strain.
On Thursday night, Washington Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor was removed from the game after the third inning. It was later announced that he suffered a mild oblique strain that will require a trip to the disabled list.
After beginning the season as a backup outfielder, Taylor was thrust into a starting role due to Adam Eaton‘s injury. Taylor has surpassed all expectations and has filled in admirably, perhaps even earning himself a starting spot next season.
Unfortunately, Taylor’s breakout season is now on hold, as he will miss at least a few games due to his injury. One thing he has working in his favor is the timing of the All-Star break, which is next week. The four-day break will count towards his minimum of ten days on the disabled list, so if he is ready in ten days, he is able to return.
One thing that is not working in his favor is the fact that oblique injuries are difficult to return from. Nationals fans witnessed this firsthand last season with Ben Revere, who strained his oblique on Opening Day and then struggled all year. Hopefully Taylor doesn’t endure the same struggles, but it is a definite possibility.
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When Taylor is officially placed on the DL, the corresponding move will be Chris Heisey being activated. Heisey has been out since May 24 with a ruptured bicep, but is finally ready to return.
Heisey, one of the best pinch-hitters in the league last season, was off to a terrible start to 2017. It’s possible he was playing through an injury, but the stats are not pretty. In 28 games, he was hitting a miniscule .128.
The good news is that Heisey played well during his rehab assignment in AAA. In five games, he hit .294 with a homer and two doubles. He would be a welcome addition to the Nats if he is able to continue to hit this well.
With Taylor unavailable, Brian Goodwin will shift from left field to center field. Goodwin, like Taylor, has been an extremely pleasant surprise and has played well after receiving unexpected playing time. Goodwin began the season in AAA, but has played left field nearly everyday in Jayson Werth‘s absence and has been one of the Nats’ hottest hitters.
If Taylor’s injury requires an extensive DL stint, the Nats may be forced to call up an outfielder like Andrew Stevenson or Alejandro De Aza. While Heisey, Ryan Raburn, Bryce Harper, and Wilmer Difo have all played center field in the past, none of them are natural center fielders and would fare better in their natural positions.
Heisey has played 106 games in center field, but most of them came in 2012 so it’s been a while. Raburn has played 35 games in center field, but has not even appeared in center since 2011. Harper has the most experience in center with 121 games, but most of them came in 2012. Finally, Difo has minimal experience in center, but has looked completely lost in center in the past so he’s likely not an option.
If the Nats have to call up an outfielder, Stevenson would be the most likely candidate. After initially struggling, he has been tearing up AAA and was recently named an International League All-Star. De Aza is another option. Although he has not played center for Syracuse, he played 46 games in center for the Mets last season. He has also hit well, batting .313 in 21 games.
This injury is a big issue for the Nats, for reasons other than just temporarily losing Taylor. A few weeks ago, Taylor was forced to miss a few games due to an undisclosed injury. After the game on Thursday night, Dusty Baker was asked if that injury was his oblique, and he said that the previous injury was in a different area.
However, Taylor was asked the same question and said that his oblique was the cause of those days off. There could be some possible misunderstanding, but it isn’t a good look if Baker is lying to the media.
Taylor’s injury was an unfortunate one for the Nationals and he now joins Eaton, Werth, Trea Turner, Koda Glover, and Shawn Kelley on the DL. Hopefully he will be back shortly, and Heisey and Raburn will most likely split time in left field for now. The Nats outfield will be something to keep an eye on over the coming weeks, as it’s currently surrounded by quite a bit of uncertainty.