Updates on Michael Taylor, Victor Arano, Daniel Norris, and others.
Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals (Double-A Harrisburg)
Lost beside the incandescence of his Futures Game contemporaries, Taylor was a silent star in the pre-game batting practice, showing easy plus power with explosive hips and hands. It’s hard to champion any hitter after Gallo ruined our perception of power with his cage conquest, but I absolutely loved the way Taylor generated his pop, despite a body that doesn’t identify itself as a middle-of-the-order threat; Taylor is quite narrow in the hips and long, the body of an athlete but not the body commonly associated with a 23-year-old baseball player. Since being selected in the sixth round in the 2009 draft, Taylor has flashed tantalizing tools accompanied by maddening inconsistencies and on-the-field utility. But he has taken a big step forward so far in 2014, driving the ball with more authority and hanging in against arm-side pitching. The swing-and-miss is still a concern, and I don’t project Taylor to be a plus hit utility player at the major-league level. But if he can make enough contact to put the power and the speed into the game, his overall profile will play as a regular—and perhaps a first division impact talent if he can continue to refine at the plate. –Jason Parks
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A look at Lucas Giolito in Lakewood brought back memories from 2012.
Lakewood is not what you expect when you think of minor-league towns. Just off a main road not far from a recently rebuilt Jersey Shore, Lakewood is not small town America. It’s overcrowded New Jersey, within commuting distance of our nation's biggest city, a place where it's go big or go home. It's not the kind of place you expect to see perspective-altering performances from 19-year-old kids in A-ball.
Time heals all wounds, but in Washington's case, it will also inflict them.
You’d think Bryce Harper’s comeback from his latest long-term injury would be cause for unbridled celebration, and in some contexts, it has been (see the standing ovation Harper received from the fans at Nationals Park before his first plate appearance on Monday). However, the 21-year-old outfielder’s return also been cause for consternation. Harper’s presence, coupled with Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing problems from third, have given the Nats more qualified position players than they have open positions, which has made everyone around the team wonder: Where will they put their surplus player(s)?
Most teams suffer from the opposite issue—too few productive players—so the Nationals’ quandary is an example of the proverbial “good problem to have.” Still, it seems as though there’s no easy answer, and so the discussion has staying power. Twice last month, two weeks apart, I appeared on MLB Network’s MLB Now; both times, Washington’s positional logjam was a featured topic, and both times, the panel was split over what manager Matt Williams should do. The discourse in print hasn’t been much more decisive.
The Nationals move into first place, Cole Hamels and Tyson Ross duel in Philly, plus more from Wednesday and previews for today.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Nationals starting pitchers have issued four walks over their last 10 games. Combined. That’s four walks in 71 innings and just one in their last 54. Giants starter Matt Cain walked four Nats in the first inning of last night’s game alone, including the first three who stepped into the box.
Jayson Werth hasn't been, as predicted, the worst signing of the 2010 offseason. Does he have a case for being the best?
When the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year deal worth $126 million, back in winter 2010, the expectation was that they would come to regret the decision.
The reasons were obvious. Werth was a 31-year-old corner outfielder who was closer to good than elite. Moreover, the Nationals were closer to bad than average. Washington had gone five years since its most recent .500 effort, and in the previous season had won just 69 games. True, the Nats had an impressive array of young talent climbing the organizational depth chart, but it seemed Werth would be in his mid-30s and on the decline by the time those kids matured. All those variables factored into a rival general manager telling Ken Rosenthal that the deal was “Absolutely bat[flipping] crazy.”
Let’s go back to 2012, when the Washington Nationals made one of the most controversial decisions in recent memory by shutting down pitcher Stephen Strasburg late in the season, even though it meant that Strasburg, though not injured at the time, would not pitch for the Nationals in their Division Series. The Nationals lost that series to the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two, and Lana del Rey wrote “Summertime Sadness” as a result (no, not really). The Nationals justified that decision by saying that they wanted to keep Strasburg below 160 innings pitched for the season to prevent him from further injury. In 2011, Strasburg only pitched in five games, spending most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was healthy through most of 2013 and has been so far through 2014.