Washington Nationals: Michael Taylor peaking at perfect time
By Drew Douglas
Washington Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor continued his breakout season this week, leading to him being named District on Deck’s player of the week.
Entering the season, the Washington Nationals appeared to have a solid outfield featuring Jayson Werth, Adam Eaton, and Bryce Harper. However, a lot can change over the course of a 162-game season.
One thing has remained the same; the Nats have a solid outfield. There is one major difference though. Due to an injury, Eaton was replaced by Michael Taylor. Fortunately for the Nats, Taylor stepped in and hardly missed a beat.
When the Nats’ prized offseason acquisition went down with a brutal knee injury in April, lots of people were calling for a trade. Taylor had received several opportunities and oozed potential, but was never able to figure things out in the majors.
That is, until this season. Taylor hardly fit into the Nats’ plans for this season and there was some debate on whether or not he would even make the Opening Day roster. Now, here we are on September 10 and he has the third-highest WAR among Nationals hitters behind only Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper.
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In previous seasons, Taylor played lockdown defense in center field, but looked completely lost at the plate. This season, Taylor has kept up his great defensive play while also raking offensively.
Taylor continued his outstanding play this week, appearing in every game and recording multiple hits in three of the last four games. He also led the potent Nats lineup in quite a few offensive statistical categories.
In seven games, Taylor led the team in hits (nine), triples (one), home runs (three), RBI’s (nine), stolen bases (two), slugging percentage (.840), on-base plus slugging (1.269), total bases (21), and extra base hits (five).
In addition to his offensive prowess, Taylor made several incredible defensive plays.
His most impressive play of the week came on Thursday night against the Phillies. Brandon Kintzler came in to pitch the seventh inning and attempt to hold a one-run Nats lead. Andres Blanco came up and crushed what appeared to be a game-tying homer to dead-center, but Taylor had other ideas, robbing Blanco of a homer with a perfectly timed leap at the wall.
Another phenomenal play came the very next night. With the Nats leading by three in the seventh, the Phillies had begun to rally and had a runner in scoring position at second base. Hyun Soo Kim singled into center field, seemingly scoring a run, but, again, Taylor had other ideas. Charging hard on the ball, Taylor fielded it and threw a 96 mph strike to gun down Nick Williams at home.
Friday night was more than just a defensive showcase for Taylor. Somehow, he may have actually made a bigger contribution offensively. In addition to throwing a runner out at the plate, he went 4-for-5 with five RBI’s and two runs scored. Between his outstanding defensive play and his offensive explosion, this will most likely go down as one of the best individual performances of the season.
Taylor’s final outstanding play was a bit under-the-radar. On Wednesday in Miami, Taylor began the game shaded towards left-center field with Dee Gordon at the plate. Instead of staying true to the scouting reports, Gordon hit it to deep right-center field in one of the biggest ballparks in the league, so Taylor had to cover an enormous amount of ground to get to the ball.
Not only did Taylor use his speed to get to the ball, he somehow managed to settle under it. While this play appears to just be a can of corn, Taylor made great use of his speed to run down the ball from a less than ideal position.
Michael Taylor has filled in admirably this season and has undoubtedly earned himself a starting job for next season. While he wasn’t expected to contribute much this season, he has transformed himself into one of the Nats’ most productive players on both sides of the ball. He’s had a great season, and is playing better than ever before right now. If he’s able to remain this hot throughout the postseason, he will be a huge contributor and put the Nats in a position to go on a deep postseason run.