Almost all of my writing about baseball pertains to the distant past. Once in a while, though, I discuss the contemporary game.
In August 2014, I wrote a post about Michael Taylor, a rookie outfielder with the Washington Nationals. I called it “A Baseball Star is Born, I Hope.”
Taylor has not yet become a star. In fact, when he struggled in 2015 and 2016, I started to wonder whether he would even become a decent starting player.
Taylor came into his own this season. An injury to Adam Eaton saw him take over in center field for the Nats. He batted a solid .271 with 19 home runs in just under 400 at-bats and played strong defense.
On this day in baseball, Taylor hit an eighth inning grand slam against the Chicago Cubs to clinch a 5-0 victory in a win-or-go-home game. He belted the homer off of Wade Davis, one of the best relievers in baseball.
In honor of the occasion, I will reprint my 2014 about the man now known as “Michael A.”
Michael Taylor had a major league debut to remember for the Washington Nationals last night. In his first major league at-bat, he singled. Later on, he belted a two-run homer, as the Nats routed the New York Mets, 7-1.
My interest in Taylor stems from a visit earlier this year to Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia. That’s the home of the Potomac Nationals, the Nats “High A” farm club.
Taylor wasn’t playing for the P-Nats at the time. He was with the Nats “Double-A” affiliate in Harrisburg, PA. But he had played for Potomac in both of the previous two seasons, during which he struggled at times at the plate, hitting .242 and .263.
I was sitting near some elderly season ticket holders and their conversation turned to Taylor. They were excited by the success he was enjoying at Harrisburg (.313 batting average and 22 home runs before being elevated to Triple-A Syracuse). It was clear that the season ticket holders held Taylor in great esteem as a person.
I learned that Taylor is unfailingly polite and always had time for fans and for the community. I gathered that he was still communicating with some of the folks sitting near me even though he had moved on to bigger things. Throughout the game, one fan used his smart phone to check on how Taylor was doing that night.
What kind of prospect is Taylor? Before the season began, Baseball America rated him the seventh best in the Nationals organization. That’s not bad, but it hardly marked him as “can’t miss.”
Baseball America rated Taylor the best athlete in the organization, as well as the best defensive outfielder. Obviously, given his numbers at Potomac, it was less sold on him as a hitter.
Now that Taylor seems to have broken through at the plate, he’s that much better of a prospect (though still not “can’t miss”). A .262 batting average in High-A ball at the age of 22 isn’t bad. A .313 average in Double A at the age of 23 is quite good.
In the short-term, the Nats may be hoping that Taylor can fill their rather substantial need for a quality fourth outfielder who can come off the bench and hit. But that’s a tough ask for a rookie. I’d like his chances better if he played every day.
However, the Nats outfield — Bryce Harper, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth — will be set once Werth returns from a minor injury. Perhaps Taylor will be sent back to “Triple A” Syracuse so he can play every day.
In any event, I join with the P-Nats faithful in wishing this exemplary young man a long and successful major league career.