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Taylor shines in MLB debut

Aug 13, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

Photo by The Associated Press Photo by The Associated Press

The legend of Nats prospect Michael Taylor has developed strongly over the last few months.

First it was his defense everyone raved about as the lanky, 6-foot-3 outfielder was a standout during his short time in spring training. Then he hit .319 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI through two months at Double-A Harrisburg.

Fast forward to the second half of 2014 and Taylor was establishing himself as a super prospect for the Nationals, passing Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole as their most promising young position player in the minor league ranks. He was hitting for average, power and showing speed on the basepaths.

Taylor’s track became accelerated in recent weeks due to injuries at the major league level. Once Nate McLouth went down with a shoulder injury, and once Steven Souza, Jr. was recalled to take his place, somebody needed to fill in for Souza at Triple-A Syracuse. In came Taylor, who already appeared on his way to a major league call-up in September.

But Souza would get then get hurt himself, and starting right fielder Jayson Werth would also miss time. The Nationals needed Taylor now, whether he was ready or not.

‘Finally,’ you could say, Taylor made his major league debut on Tuesday night, much earlier than anyone could have predicted even a few weeks ago. And though his call-up was relatively rushed, few could have guessed it in the Nationals’ win 7-1 over the Mets.

Immediately Taylor made an impact with a single in his first at-bat. He would later add his first major league home run as well, a two-run shot in the sixth inning to the opposite field.

Taylor also looked solid in right field Tuesday night, with quick jumps on line drives hit his way. Defensive range is supposed to be one of his biggest strengths, as some say he was the best outfielder in Double-A this season.

Taylor had a memorable debut and helped the Nationals bounce back from their weekend in Atlanta with a solid win over the Mets. It is one game and he happened to be facing an emergency starter in Rafael Montero, but the early returns are impressive, there is no question.

Taylor appears at the very least to have confidence to go along with his abilities, as he clearly didn’t shrink in the moment on Tuesday night. It’s a very small sample size, but Taylor could be just what the Nats need with all the injuries to their outfield.

It was just one game, but the Nats could have a secret weapon many other teams wish they could deploy right now.

Watch video of his homer right here via MLB.com:

Also, you can listen to an interview we did with Taylor back in June:

  1. wearenationals - Aug 13, 2014 at 6:34 AM

    Love watching guys at Potomac climb the ranks in the Nats organization. WTG, #18!

    • tcostant - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      I’m an old Mets fan, when he came to the plate he looked like Darryl Strawberry with that thin talk frame and the #18. If he can gice us five years like that, I’ll take it.

  2. micksback1 - Aug 13, 2014 at 7:19 AM

    I posted a month ago that I wondered if a player from our farm sysstem would be the missing piece come the Fall. Could this kid be him?

  3. natsfan1a - Aug 13, 2014 at 7:19 AM

    Good job, kid.

  4. micksback1 - Aug 13, 2014 at 7:20 AM

    5 game lead, as the famous Michelle would say

    Woooooowooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    • sjm308 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      Mick: you need to practice!
      MicheleS’ signature call after a win is WooooooHooooo

      Go Nats!

      • unterp - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:18 AM

        where is MicheleS, does she not comment here anymore?

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:40 AM

        Pretty much the same reason as everybody else who left, unterp, afaik.

      • MicheleS - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:33 AM

        I am still here, just post less frequently because I am now a Half Season plan holder and I can’t post from my phone.!

  5. laddieblahblah - Aug 13, 2014 at 7:23 AM

    Taylor looked really good last night. He has a short swing and a quick bat, and does not over-swing. He even chokes up slightly to give him better bat control, and demonstrated, as Tony Rendon has done 16 times this year, that you do not have to swing out of your shoes to put one over the fence. Very impressive swing mechanics.

    But he also struck out 132 times in 397 ABs, mostly against AA pitching, this year. That’s 1 strikeout every 3 ABs. Given his excellent swing mechanics, his strikeout numbers suggest a guy who does not see the breaking ball well and/or is not very selective in his approach at the plate. He struck out even more frequently than Espinosa this year, and that was against AA pitching.

    Let’s see how he hits when they stop giving him FBs over the plate – and they will, as soon as the NL East teams check with their respective AA affiliates to see how they pitched him in the minors. Give him another year in AAA to improve those strike out numbers and plate discipline, and we could be looking at Denard Span’s successor in CF in 2016. Or next year, if Rizzo decides to let Span go,

    Brian Goodwin? He hasn’t played at Syracuse in weeks, if not months. Souza and Taylor are the Nats outfield guys of the future, and, perhaps, the present, as well.

    They have another, Rafael Bautista, a CFer and a LH hitter, who might turn out to be even better, at Hagerstown, right now. The Nats have the OF covered, with Bryce holding down the other OF slot, for years to come.

    • tcostant - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:41 AM

      I saw him in the future’s game and he did look like a strike out waiting to happen.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 13, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      He’s very raw, and no one expects him to turn into the Nats’ version of Shane Spencer (look up his 1998 season – crazy) this year. He’s getting a taste of the majors at a good time for both him and the team, and will likely have all of 2015 to further hone is game in AAA – where he will see a lot of junkballing former MLB level pitchers to challenge his pitch recognition skills. The Nats likely have their five OF for Opening Day 2015 – Harper, Span, Werth, Souza and McLouth.

      And don’t give up on Goodwin just yet, either. He’s the same age as Taylor and is still one of the youngest players in AAA (second youngest on Syracuse behind A.J. Cole). He’s missed time because of injuries, not because he’s been benched. He will be playing alongside Taylor next year in AAA, getting ready for The Show.

  6. micksback1 - Aug 13, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    just read a about taylor’s family. this is a great kid

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      Yes, good read about his military father.

    • davebinmd - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      I know his father Tony, after his 22 years in the military, he was one of the managers at a Wyndham golf resort in South FL that I went to every year until recently. On Feb. 27, 2010, still just months after Michael was drafted, I was checking-out and getting ready to drive up to Viera to spend a couple of days at spring training. He saw me in a hallway, gestured at my Nats shirt and with a proud smile said “My son plays for them’. Naturally that stopped me in my tracks and led to a long conversation. I would then seek him out each year when I came back and we would discuss Michael’s progress, he’s a great guy. That also led me to make trips to Potomac to watch Michael play and chat with him afterward, and as we’ve seen now, he’s a great kid.

      • letswin3 - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Thanks for the insight, Dave. The kid looks like the real deal to me …. 2 for 4, with a dinger will do that. I’m anxious to see the arm I’ve read about too.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:27 PM

        Dave, do you happen to know whether his dad was at the game? I hope so.

  7. nats128 - Aug 13, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    “Fast forward to the second half of 2014 and Taylor was establishing himself as a super prospect for the Nationals, passing Brian Goodwin”

    Who saw that coming. Goodwin has been the guy since the day he was drafted. Congrats to Taylor.

  8. ehay2k - Aug 13, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    Happy for him, but 1 game in the majors is such ateeny-tiny sample size that I really don’t make any judgments other than that he is clearly not afraid to be here. Everyone will adjust to Taylor. For reference, people were talking (legitimately) about Espi’s RoY chances after a full half a season. Then came the adjustments….

    So, good luck kid, we’ll see how you adjust, and how you handle adversity.

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      Good points.

      Reality will set, whatever it turns out to be.

      But for 24 hours at least, this kid deserves to be walking on air. Congrats!

  9. Joe Seamhead - Aug 13, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    Laddie, Taylor has shortened his swing dramatically this year. Nats Jack & I were just talking about how great of a job that Mark Harris has done with young Mr. Taylor.

    Goodwin? The sand is running out of the hourglass quickly.

    BTW, the Werth speeding/reckless driving story was all over this morning’s local news. Nats issued a canned response.

    • micksback1 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:09 AM

      Joe

      you are now the third person I have heard say that about Goodwin. I am afraid you may be right.

    • natinalsgo - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:19 AM

      I was in a car with a bunch of people driving home from a Nats game and we were in front of Werth last year on the George Washington Parkway. You could hear the engine purring behind us. When Jason next to us and then pulled around us I video’d him on my cell. The car I was in was going around 65. You can see him pull away as we got close to the beltway.

      Werth lives off of Georgetowne Pike and you can’t drive fast on that road. Does anyone know which road he was caught on?

      Just don’t do it again. I guess the buzz is he could get jail time. I don’t know the laws but I hope it’s just a nice fine.

      http://www.natsenquirer.com/2014/08/jayson-werth-reckless-driving-105-55-virginia.html

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:46 AM

        He’s obviously never hit a deer. This area is overrun with those varmints and I don’t care how talented you think are behind the wheel, a deer jumps in front of you at 105 mph there is no avoiding it.I like Jayson, but driving that fast anywhere around here is endangering other people, not just himself. It’s a dangerous, self-centered thing to do for a guy that we all know is a pretty smart guy. [That all said, I am also a hypocrite, as in my younger days I certainly was guilty, and lucky to have survived, excessive extreme speeds. Now I'm older, wiser, and scared of all the consequences involved with that behavior].

      • dcwx61 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:51 AM

        Jason, respect the Garden Gnome…..Let him your guide be

      • Eric - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:07 AM

        I would be *stunned* if Jayson got jail time, but not if he had his license suspended.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:51 AM

        Gonats, I remember when you posted that story about JW on the GW Pkwy.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        I remember that, too. Game 60, vs the Twins, when Mark had his appendicitis attack, and the board had a food fight in his absence. Bad day all around, I think.

        Gonat – Jun 9, 2013 at 3:48 AM
        Section 222, we left before the concert ended and got some food a the McD’s around the corner. We got on the GW Parkway and along comes Jayson Werth driving the Parkway in his Porsche next to us and then pulled in front of us and hit the gas pedal. My buddy video’d it. We were going a little fast…..

    • Doc - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      Seams, can we assume that the shortened swing has come lately for Taylor, and the K’s have been less an issue in the latter part of his season at Harrisburg?

    • Doc - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      Seams, can we assume that the shortened swing has come lately for Taylor, and the K’s have been less an issue in the latter part of his season at Harrisburg?

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:44 AM

        Doc, I can’t answer that with certainty, as I haven’t watched him personally since earlier in the season.I do know that the instructors in Harrisburg have worked with him to shorten his swing. I haven’t looked up his season game logs at Harrisburg to see if the K’s have been less frequent since earlier in the season. Let’s hope whatever it is that he had last night is permanent.

  10. rabbit433 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    So, what can we get for Werth?? This kid Taylor looks great. He swings the bat like a ball player, not a rusty gate! Hopefully Werth needs a lot, lot of rest.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 13, 2014 at 12:37 PM

      Heh. Can’t tell if this is intentionally funny or unintentionally funny, but it is funny.

      For the past two years Werth has been the best bat in the Nats’ lineup. Michael Taylor has played five games above AA ball (four in AAA, one in the majors). Let’s hold off on making the switch for a bit, shall we?

      Oh, and Werth has a full no-trade clause. So there’s that.

  11. coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    Good job kid, I’ve been calling him futire span but definitely has a more power. Hopefully he, Souza and co can spell our regulars enough to have them all fully healthy for the playoffs and get some good mlb time to judge their potential next year and beyond

  12. Faraz Shaikh - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    If we can flip this guy for stanton, that would make my day. I am only half joking.

  13. adcwonk - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Btw, magic number down to 40.

    Just sayin’
    ;-)

  14. coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    Win tonight and id imagine the mets move to playing for next year – espn has already started saying they’re discussing slowing Harvey’s recovery. They’d be 9.5 back with 40ish games to play (I believe 7 from the WC all else equal). Would be nice to see them rest some regulars Thursday and us the same for different reasons of course

    • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:46 AM

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Mets are trying to slow Matt Harvey’s recovery, but that they (the team) have never been in favor of him returning to the mound during the 2014 season. Mr. Harvey has repeatedly expressed his desire to get back into action more quickly — and some would say recklessly — than the norm.

  15. bowdenball - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    I questioned whether Taylor would be effective in the game thread yesterday afternoon. I’m delighted that he proved me wrong yesterday and I hope it continues. Sure it was against a fill-in starter for DeGrom and the dregs of the Mets bullpen, so maybe the quality wasn’t much better than he saw in AA and AAA. But he still looked pretty good.

    At a minimum he should give the Nats the flexibility to rest Span now that he on-base streak is over or let Werth continue to rest his shoulder. Maybe they’ll just let Werth sit until the team gets back to DC this weekend.

    • Section 222 - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:14 PM

      You were right about the game not being rained out though!

  16. Eric - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    So, was MT choking up on the bat like that back when he was striking out all the time, or is that something he’s done to adjust.

    • Doc - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:31 AM

      I was wondering the same thing. Looks like he’s making some adjustments.

      From what I’ve read, it appears that his hitting approach is very ‘coachable’.

      • stoatva - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:39 AM

        He was taking in everything LaRoche was saying in the dugout like a sponge.

    • natsjackinfl - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      Not only is the kid extremely coachable, he’s intelligent and athletic. His high strike out rate can be attributed to a serious loop that he has worked extremely hard to eliminate. He’s also learned pitch recognition and that little choke up on the bat has allowed him to have better bat control. His ability to foul off pitches that he previously missed should really help in cutting down his K rate.

      He’ll still have moments of old habit recurrence but I believe he has all the tools to continue improvement in all areas of the game.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        +1

      • Eric - Aug 13, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        Thanks natsjack. He certainly looks like he has those tools.

        How do I look up pitch charts for an AB again? I’m curious how many off-speed pitches he saw, if any.

      • pdowdy83 - Aug 13, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        My other thought on cutting down on his K’s is that he does seem to take a fair amount of pitches. He had a strong walk rate in the minors this year. He carried an 11.97 BB% which is solid to go along with his 29% K rate. I think some people are also forgetting to use plate appearances vs at bats when calculating the strikeout rate. 29% is still high but if a player has an OBP over .400 with power and speed I feel the K rate is less of an issue. If Taylor was hitting .275 with a .345 OBP in the minors and had that kind of strikeout rate it would be an even larger issue but he was slashing .301/.415/.547. Obviously I don’t think that is what he will do in the bigs but with a line of .260/.330/.400 with his speed and defensive abilities he would be an incredibly valuable player.

  17. Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    Some people just take really well to hitting white balls for batting practice and not carrying their own luggage.

    Apropos of nothing in particular, but Taylor, as I recall, was drafted as a shortstop, wasn’t he?

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      Yes he was. He had a fair amount of errors at short before they moved him to the OF. I can’t remember who it was that said it, but before ST someone said Taylor was”the best outfielder on the planet.” Then he had 2 errors the next day playing RF.

      • Smyrcok - Aug 13, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        I remember that Joe. That was kinda funny. The wind was blowing something fierce that day though as it often does in those spring training games so it was the balls hanging in the air and falling short that goofed him. I hope he gets another start tonight.

  18. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    Off topic, but anyone else going to be at the Seattle games? unterp, you still thinking about going? Others?

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 13, 2014 at 10:53 AM

      Seattle game? In Seattle? Maybe I’ll catch a ride with Werth.

    • snerdblurter - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      Coming up from San Fran for the weekend, but can only make the Sunday game. Looking forward to seeing Safeco for the first time for what should be a great series.

    • unterp - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      yep, all in for Seattle…

  19. stoatva - Aug 13, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Fresh sheets, peeps.

  20. MicheleS - Aug 13, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    I am so happy for Michael, watched him at Potomac and had the chance to meet him at the PNats end of year banquet. Super nice kid and hope for the best for him. Glad to see him develop.

  21. Drew - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Taylor is an exciting young player.

    For perspective: He’s nearly 19 months older than Bryce Harper, who’s still 21.

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