August 11, 2014
The Situation: The Nationals are running low on healthy outfielders, and Michael Taylor continues to rake in the upper minors.
Background: Taylor was selected in the sixth round of the 2009 draft, out of Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale.
Drafted as a shortstop, Taylor transitioned to the outfield after a year in the GCL. With such pure athleticism, the transition to the outfield made sense and allowed Taylor to focus on the aspect of his game that needs the most refinement—the bat.
The Scouting: Taylor has a tall and lean frame—the type that looks athletic. He might have a tick more growth left into his frame, but more muscle might be a detriment to the plus speed and outfield presence he provides.
The glove has a chance to be plus in the outfield. In my original look at Taylor early in April, I noted that he has pure athleticism but makes poor jumps and reads. He was inconsistent at the beginning of the year. Since then, Taylor has vastly improved in almost every aspect of his defensive game. His athleticism already improvises for some of the mild deficiencies in his reads and routes, but he also displays a plus arm that works very well in center field. Taylor had trouble controlling his ability, and was often becoming overzealous or too aggressive. As with mostly all prospects, the development and progression defensively was a necessary step for Taylor to take—and he's done just that.
At the plate, Taylor is even more interesting. He is going to swing and miss a lot. It's not Mark Reynolds-esque, but he might end up putting together a few 150-plus strikeout seasons. However, with the bad comes the good. Taylor has plus raw power and plus bat speed. His ability to drive the ball when barreled is astounding; and this all comes together from the plus bat speed, plus raw power and a slight lift in his swing. The concern at the plate is the noise. His swing can become elongated and his hips and hands will often move too much for my liking. Taylor has improved in this aspect, but the swing will always be inconsistent and likely hinder him from ever seeing his true raw tools blossom at the plate. He will struggle against anything that changes the eye level, and has struggled in the past against a good, fading change from a right-handed pitcher. The tools are loud, but there is a slight concern about whether they are impact at the highest level on a consistent basis. Regardless, Taylor looks to be a solid second-division player at this stage, with a small chance to be better.
Here he is taking BP at this year's Futures Game:
Immediate Impact: Do not expect him to perform at a high level immediately. The tools are loud, but the inconsistencies in his game are also noticeable. He has a ton of talent, but the learning curve for Taylor has always been significant and he has just started to tap into the raw tools. Expect good defense and a ton of strikeouts, with potential to see some of the raw tools play occasionally. With Taylor already on the 40-man, the Nationals needed to bring up someone. Taylor has been tearing the cover off the ball, so it naturally made sense. —Tucker Blair
Fantasy Impact: Michael Taylor has the minor-league statistics that make fantasy owners drool. In Double-A before his recent promotion, he mashed 22 homers and swiped 34 bags, and those become even more salivating when one considers those were accumulated with roughly two months remaining on the big-league schedule. His slash line was just as good at .313/.396/.539. The good news is that those bulky statistics reflect very real physical tools. He possesses legitimate plus power and the speed to be a huge threat on the basepaths. It’s the power/speed combination that fantasy owners covet. However, the likelihood those tools immediately manifest themselves at the major-league level is exceedingly low. There’s a lot of swing-and-miss in his profile, which should be exposed against elite talent. That doesn’t profile as an “instant impact” piece that should be acquired to propel a playoff or championship run in most leagues.
Of course, the question is further exacerbated by the shaky opportunity for extended playing time. The Nationals are simply patching up an injured outfield. The banged-up Jayson Werth is reportedly in the lineup for Sunday night's game, and once McLouth and Souza are healthy Taylor should be returned to Triple-A to continue his development. He might return in September, but even then, it should be as an ancillary piece rather than a main cog in the outfield rotation.
Those in re-draft leagues can largely ignore Taylor’s promotion, aside from teams in deeper leagues with significant holes in the outfield; he might be a cheap plug-and-play option. I’m not doing much more than $2-3 in FAAB. In dynasty leagues, though, Taylor should absolutely be owned. He offers power/speed impact in the outfield, and those types of players are becoming more rare as the overall offensive environment wanes. Risk accompanies the exciting potential—though as Tucker mentioned above, the chance he reaches his ceiling isn’t significant. Fortunately, it does seem likely that he should be a better fantasy producer with the bat than he is a real-life producer, due to the potential contact issues. His defensive prowess should help him remain relevant if he does struggle to adjust to the big leagues, too. That’s always a bonus for dynasty-league owners. It’s not a clear path to regular playing time in our nation’s capitol, but if he continues to produce, they’ll find a home for him. —J.P. Breen
Tucker Blair is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @TuckerBlairON