Washington Nationals: Michael Taylor Primed for Breakout in 2018

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Michael A. Taylor
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Michael A. Taylor /

After his offensive explosion in the 2017 NLDS, Washington Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor is following the same model toward success as did his teammate Bryce Harper.

In perhaps the craziest single series in Washington Nationals history, the team got an offensive boost from an unlikely spot.  Batting in front of the pitcher for the entire 2017 NLDS, Michael A. Taylor stepped up to the plate in a huge way.

He started off slow, only reaching base twice in five official at-bats (one hit and one walk) in the first two games.  His impact in Game 3 was felt on defense as he had two outfield assists.

Taylor’s fortunes turned in the elimination games.

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With two outs in the eighth inning of Game 4 and the Nats up by one with the bases loaded, Michael A. Taylor hit what some view as the most exceptional play in Nationals history.  His grand slam off of Chicago Cubs closer Wade Davis electrified the Nationals dugout while simultaneously creating a hush over Wrigley Field.

In Game 5, he hit another home run and drove in four more runs.

Does Taylor’s 2017 NLDS performance bring back memories of another National?  It should.

In the 2014 NLDS, Bryce Harper had his breakout series against the San Francisco Giants.  In that four-game series, Harper hit three home runs and drove in four runs.

In this series, Harper was directly responsible for nearly half of the Nationals runs during the round.  Albeit it was a dreadful offensive showing as the team scored nine runs in four games (including a game two that went 18 innings).

Harper followed up his 2014 playoff success with an unprecedented 2015 season.  Harper became the youngest player to be named MVP unanimously.  His OPS of 1.109 is second to only Ted Williams for the best OPS mark for an age 22 or younger season.

Now, should the Nationals expect that type of production out of Taylor? Absolutely not.  The point is to show the parallels to a teammate of his whom oozed potential.

Taylor showed flashes of his potential in the 2017 regular season.  After filling in for the injured Adam Eaton, Taylor showed he was capable of holding down center field.  Taylor posted an 11.6 DEF rating which, if he qualified, would rank tenth in the MLB and second among outfielders.

Offensively, the Nationals knew before this season Taylor had what some would call “sneaky pop.”  This season, he let the cat out of the bag.  He blasted 19 home runs and posted a .486 slugging percentage.  If he qualified for the batting title, that would rank 23rd in the National League (the same as Andrew McCutchen and better than Corey Seager and Buster Posey).

This season, the opportunity for Taylor to be an everyday player is there for the taking.

Jayson Werth and Howie Kendrick are free agents, leaving a possible vacancy.  Harper is not going anywhere and will patrol right field. Eaton will return and might play left field after his ACL injury.  This leaves Taylor to take the reins and play center field.

Taylor’s primary competitor for his starting outfielder spot is Brian Goodwin.  However, Goodwin is primarily a corner outfielder and is not best suited for center field.  Goodwin could be used to platoon with Taylor, but that does not seem likely.  He is much more valuable as an injury/rest day fill-in option off the bench.

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One could think that under new manager Dave Martinez, Taylor could have his best season in the majors.  We know Taylor has the pieces to be a great center fielder for years to come.  If he can put those puzzle pieces together in 2018, he will create a beautiful, magnificent masterpiece.