The Washington Nationals polished a gem this year with Michael Taylor. How does he grade in our annual report card? Very high.
He barely made the Opening Day roster. Taylor’s father died near the end of spring training. When Adam Eaton tore an ACL at the end of April, people rolled their eyes at the thought of Taylor patrolling centerfield the rest of the year. There had to be someone better, right?
Oh, how wrong we were.
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In a season full of surprises, the emergence of Taylor into a star ranks high on the list. His defensive range and ability to run was known. The nearly 20-homer and 23 double year was not. Even with his own injury troubles, his contributions paced the Nats back into the playoffs.
Taylor’s slash line of .271/.320/.486 are career-highs. With an OPS of .806, the adjusted total of 105 jolts him from sub-standard to slightly above average at the plate. Not bad for a hitter thriving at the bottom of the order.
Credit a shortened swing, like a broom swatting a bug off a wall, and getting aggressive early in the count for his success. Taylor’s confidence grew to the point he saved the Nats season with a grand slam in Game 4 of the NL Divisional Series to force the series back home for one last game.
In those five games, Taylor smashed two dingers while driving in eight and batting 5-for-15. As other bats soured, his swing remained sweet.
His strongest work came with the glove. Baseball Reference says he saved 11 runs in center between his range and arm. If you understand d-WAR, Taylor scored 1.1 this year. He won them a game because of the leather.
Under the tutelage of Dusty Baker, Taylor was told this was his last chance to shine. Baker’s honesty is what Taylor needed to hear. From end of the bench player, he goes into 2018 as the presumed starting centerfielder.
That is quite the comeback.
You can nitpick at the excessive strikeouts and inability to draw walks, but Taylor matched his career-high of 108 hits in 73 less at-bats than he had in 2015. If you are wondering, 399 this year to 472 in the past.
His name will pop up in trade talks this winter as his value cannot get higher. Taylor belongs in Washington. A key piece of the 2018 puzzle hoping to push farther than any team in Nats history.
His A grade is truly deserved.