In the wake of what can only be described as a shoulder injury epidemic in the Washington outfield, the Nationals have called-up top center-field prospect Michael Taylor for tonight’s game against Atlanta, a source tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.
Taylor, 22, enjoyed a career-year at Double-A Harrisburg this season, hitting .313/.396/.539 with 22 home runs and 35 stolen bases in 98 games. His success earned him a promotion to Triple-A last monday, and he is 5 for 17 with 4 walks and four extra base hits at Syracuse.
Though a corresponding roster move has yet to be reported, MLBTR’s Steve Adams speculates that veteran outfielder either Jayson Werth or recently called up rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr. could be headed to the disabled list. Werth has been dealing with ankle and shoulder ailments for the past week, while Souza, who was called up after Nate McLouth went the disabled list with a shoulder injury, suffered shoulder inflammation after colliding with the right field wall friday night.
Taylor was listed by Baseball America as the #7 prospect in the Nationals organization prior to the season, largely off the strength of his plus tools, rather than any on-field performance. The former 6th round pick hit just .263 with 10 home runs for High-A Potomac last year, but scouts saw an incredibly fast and athletic kid with gold glove potential in center and above-average raw power.
“Taylor, I think, is exciting,” Baseball America national writer Aaron Fitt told MASN Sports’s Byron Kerr last December. “A really wiry, quick twitch, athletic body, a guy that has great instincts. He is an exceptional defender, as we all know and he can throw. He can run, he steals bases. I liked how he developed this year. I think he is starting to hit for some more power. He hits a lot of doubles now, he is stealing a lot of bases at a pretty good success rate.”
Taylor has turned those tools into on-field success in 2014, particularly in terms of power, and last month MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo ranked him as the 72nd overall prospect in baseball.
Questions about his swing and approach at the plate still linger, though. The Florida native upped his walk rate from 9.5% to 11.7% (MLB average is just 7.8%) this season, but he continues to whiff at a scary pace. He struck out 131 times in 581 plate appearances last season, but this year, he has already broken that total by one in 480 appearances, for a K rate of 29%. He may be hitting .313 in Triple-A, but that could seriously cut into his ability to hit for average at the major league level.
Taylor would be wise to make the most out of the opportunities Washington gives him down the stretch. With Bryce Harper controlled through 2018, with Werth under contract through 2017 and with the club holding a team-friendly option on center-fielder Denard Span for 2015, playing time could be hard to come by in the Washington outfield for the foreseeable future.