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Harvesting Opinion: Washington Nationals–Michael Taylor

Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars. Each week, six of FanSided’s team blogs send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as these go on a five-week cycle. 

Please note that any statistics used may be a day or two out of date, as we prepare our answers over the course of a week.

In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our Washington Nationals site District on Deck:

A name that we have been hearing a lot of good things about lately in the DC/MD/VA area is Hagerstown Suns outfielder Michael Taylor, who has been red hot since the all star break. What are your thoughts on him and how far away do you think he is from being ready to make it to the majors?


Wally Says:
Taylor, the Nationals 6th round pick in the 2009 is having a decent season hitting 0.252/.304/.451 with 22 2B, 7 3B, 13 HR and 19 SB in 377 AB for Hagerstown. To say he’s been red hot would be grossly overstating his performance. While his bat has picked up recently – 0.296/.324/.563 in July and 0.270/.342/.476 in August – he’s been a bit more sluggish recently hitting 0.238/.289/.381 in his last 10 games.
Whether he’s hot or cold at the present time, he doesn’t rate as much of a prospect in my book – at least not at the present time. He’s shown improvement over last season but that’s not hard since he hit a very lackluster 0.199/.276/.298 between the GCL Nationals (38 G) and Hagerstown (5 G) in 2010. Never-the-less improvement is what it is and Taylor is still just 20-years old and he has time to change my mind.

The primary concern I have with respect to his future is his 104-27 SO-to-BB rate this season. If he’s going to have any kind of a shot at the majors he needs to improve his plate discipline and get his OBP up to a consistently respectable level. Guys who get on-base at a 0.304 clip – or even a 0.342 clip as he’s done so far in August – are probably not going to find a lot of success at the higher levels of the minors. I shudder to think what might potentially happen to his production when makes the transition from A-ball to Double-A.

Right now I think he’s a raw, athletic player with a lot of aspects to work on in his game. Beyond the plate discipline, he needs to work on his success rate stealing bases and do a better job against RHP. Given that he was drafted as a SS and has already moved to the OF he’s got some work to do defensively as well.

I don’t believe he has a major league ETA as I don’t think he will make it that far. If you want to dream however, he’s in Low-A right now and should probably finish the season there. Since he strikes me as a guy who is more athlete right now than baseball player, he’s probably going to need significant time in High-A and then in Double-A as well. If we project a full season in each of those we are looking at a taste of Triple-A and maybe a cup of coffee in the majors in 2014.

I’ve seen some Devon White comparisons which works on some levels given that they were both 6th round selections and Devo got off to a slow start in the minors as Taylor has. However at 20-years old White was finishing the 1983 season in Double-A and the following year he truly started to put things together and took a big step forward offensively. I don’t see that for Taylor and the comp to White is probably a best case scenario.

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Nathaniel says: Wally certainly cites an important drawback in Taylor’s game. When it comes to the statistical evaluation of prospects, whether hitters or pitchers, the number that I always find most important is K/BB, and his is quite subpar, even in the second half (44/12 in 46 games).

That said, we’re talking about a guy who clearly has power and speed, as he’s ripped 42 extra-base hits and stolen 21 bases. His strong second half speaks well to his ability to adjust, as well. And, most importantly, he’s 20 years old and thus way too young to write off.

One important caveat about his future is that he doesn’t look like he can cut it as a strict platoon guy. Taylor’s bad plate discipline gets even worse against lefties (34/3 K/BB, yuck!) and he’s reached base at a mere .292 clip against southpaws. Against righties, his 72/24 mark is acceptable (given his youth), but he’s slugging over 100 points worse.

Given his overall rawness, Taylor’s the sort of prospect who really needs a full year at each level to figure out the pitchers, which would put his ETA as 2015 if he ultimately does make the necessary adjustments. That might sound a long way off, but he’ll turn 24 right at the end of 2015 spring training, so it’s not like Taylor will be ancient at that point. He’s clearly a talented player with a number of positives, but he’s got to figure out the strike zone better to have a future, either by adding walks or cutting strikeouts (preferably both).

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For more on the Nationals, be sure to check out District on Deck.

If you are a fan of Twitter you can follow Nathaniel (@Stoltz_Baseball) and Wally (@thebaseballfish) and also keep up to date with all things S2S by liking our Facebook page.

Topics: Hagerstown Suns, Michael Taylor, Washington Nationals

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