In this series, District Sports Page has provide detailed scouting reports on our list of Top 25 Washington Nationals prospects. You can find our overview with the entire list here. We will now move into even further detailed reports for our Top 10.
And so far in the Top 10:
Now without further ado, here is prospect No. 7, outfielder Michael Taylor.
7. Michael Taylor
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 4″, Weight: 205 lb.
Born: March 26, 1991 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US (Age 22)
Draft: Sixth Round, 2009
|Hitting Ability||Raw Power||Power Frequency||Plate Discipline||Speed||Baserunning||Fielding||Range||Arm Strength||Arm Accuracy||Overall Future Potential|
Taylor has been one of the Nationals’ more successful development projects over the past few years. The club drafted him in the sixth round of 2009 Draft, and inked him to a low-profile $125k bonus to pass on his commitment to The University of North Florida, a solid but relatively unheralded baseball program coached by Dusty Rhodes. Taylor hit .447 with seven homers during his senior season playing shortstop in one of the most stacked high school circuits in the nation, competing against top prospects like Deven Marrero (now with the Red Sox) and Dane Williams.
The multi-sport athlete was largely overlooked, but the Nationals believed they had something in him. After he was drafted, Taylor struggled to perform in pro debut. He made an ice-cold debut in the Gulf Coast League and finished the season floundering at Low-A Hagerstown. At shortstop, he made thirteen errors in 19 games, and didn’t display the aptitude for third or second base. His work at the plate was rough as well. He posted an ugly .199/.276/.298 triple-slash line through 43 games, with more strikeouts (33) than hits (28).
Taylor is an outstanding athlete, but the Nationals saw a player that needed a lot of coaching and polish before he could be all that he could be. They moved him to the outfield, and instructors Tony Tarasco (now the organization’s minor league coordinator) and Marlon Anderson set out to put his game together. With extra work in the offseason, Taylor took to the outfield like a natural, and since that point, he has evolved into one the minors elite defensive players. At the plate, he cleaned up his poor swing that was marked by an abnormally wide set-up and a wild and powerless upper-body cut. He’s still working to find mechanical consistency, but his cut is now much cleaner and it employs his powerful core to generate bat speed. Last season, he started taking his plus speed into games more often, displaying improved base-stealing instincts and smart decisions on the basepaths.
Taylor enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, when he hit .253/.310/.432 with the Hagerstown Suns as a 20-year-old. His numbers stalled a little bit in the Carolina League in 2012, but his defense earned him recognition from Nationals coaches as a player to watch in the organization. Last season his bat’s development got back on track, and is starting to catch up to his glove. He hit .263/.340/.426 with the Potomac Nationals, posting the best walk rate of his career and managing his strikeouts. He swiped 51 bases in 58 tries, tying him for second in the league behind teammate Billy Burns. His 2013 stolen base total was more than he’d totaled in his previous three pro seasons combined.
At the plate, Taylor has a long way to go before he’s an average hitter, but the athleticism and tools are there. He’s lanky with long levers, and he whips the bat with strong hands. Now that he’s shortened his set-up and is doing a better job of managing his stride and keeping his weight on his back foot until he releases his hands, he’s hitting the ball with authority more often. He still could stand to do a better job of using his legs and core muscles in his swing as he tends to cast his hands. His sprays a lot of hard line drives, and doesn’t get consistent back spin or loft yet. Once he does though, he could unlock his home run potential and hit 20+ annually in the big leagues.
Taylor has some hitting skills, primarily his quick hands and his feel for the barrel. His pitch selection and discipline took a step forward last season. which will help him improve his average and power numbers, and he’s walking up to the plate with more of a plan lately. He’s still relatively raw for his age, however. His cut tends to get out of control when he gets his pitch, wasting a lot of energy and causing him to get out in front often. And while he’s fast enough to put the barrel on nearly any fastball, he’s prone to right-handed breaking pitches.
Taylor is a plus runner out of the box and under way, and he showed the quick first step and improved reads to become an asset as a base-stealer in the MLB, maybe a guy that can swipe 30 bags annually in his prime, and leg out plenty of doubles and triples.
Taylor’s defense is his calling card and he’s one of the best defensive center fielders in the minors — and arguably the best at his level. You don’t see his inexperience at all when he plays, and he reads line drives and spin off of the bat, adjusting his routes nicely. His long-limbed stride hives him the classic gliding appearance when he moves to the ball. He covers plus range into either gap and his apparent agility and body awareness should help him play wall in the MLB. He also tracks drives over his shoulder well, and makes wide receiver grabs. To top it all off, he has a strong, accurate arm.
Taylor’s defense and baserunning would already provide excellent value to an MLB ballclub, and his bat has promise despite so-so numbers at the plate over the past couple of years. He has some work to do on his swing and needs to develop a much better feel for hitting before he can be considered an everyday player. But if he develops into the solid all-around hitter he has the ingredients to be — a .270/.340/.420 type guy with 20-30 stolen bases — his other skills would make him All-Star caliber. Of course, the hit tool is the most important tool and the vast majority of young prospects end up falling short because they don’t pan out in this category. If the bat doesn’t get there, Taylor does still have the defensive chops and baserunning value to be a Dewayne Wise-type fourth outfielder.