Michael Taylor (taylomi02)

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Michael Anthony Taylor

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Biographical Information[edit]

Outfielder Michael Taylor homered in his major league debut for the Washington Nationals on August 12, 2014. He is often called Michael A. Taylor, to distinguish him from contemporary outfielder Michael Taylor.

Michael was drafted out of high school by the Nationals in the 6th round of the 2009 amateur draft. He made his debut the following year, playing 38 games for the GCL Nationals and 5 for the Hagerstown Suns, but struggled with a combined batting line of .199/.276/.298. However, he managed to improve sufficiently in 2011 to convince the Nationals to hang on to him, as he hit .253/.310/.432 in 126 games for Hagerstown. He banged 26 doubles, 7 triples and 13 homers while stealing 23 bases, showing a nice power/speed combination in spite of the low batting average. He then spent the next two seasons with the Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League, hitting .242 in 2012 and .263 in 2013. After hitting only 3 homers in 2012, but with 26 doubles 19 stolen bases, he exploded for 41 doubles and 10 homers in 133 games in 2013, driving in 87 runs and stealing 51 bases in 58 attempts. He had entered the campaign as the Nationals' 5th-best prospect according to MLB.com and was a Carolina League Post-Season All-Star and a MiLB.com Organization All-Star that year.

Taylor continued to improve after starting the 2014 season in AA with the Harrisburg Senators. In 98 games, he hit .313 with 17 doubles and 22 homers, driving in 61 runs and stealing 34 bases and was a 2014 Futures Game selection. he was promoted to the AAA Syracuse Chiefs at the start of August, but got another promotion, this time to the nation's capital, after only 4 games, during which he went 5 for 13 (.385).

Michael started in right field for the Nationals in his debut on August 12th, facing the New York Mets. In his first big league plate appearance, he singled against Rafael Montero in the 2nd, then in the 6th, he hit a two-run homer off reliever Carlos Torres, the Nats' third of the inning in what would be a 7-1 win. He finished the day 2 for 4. It turned out to be his only long ball of the year, as he finished the season hitting .205 with 5 RBIs in 17 games. He made the Nationals' opening day roster as a back-up outfielder in 2015 and exceeded his first year's numbers by the end of April. On May 13th, he hit the first grand slam of his career, after entering the game when Bryce Harper was ejected in the 7th inning; he connected off Arizona Diamondbacks closer Addison Reed in the 9th to give the Nats a 9-6 win. On August 20th, he hit the longest home run in the majors that season, as measured by distance traveled, as he crushed a pitch from Yohan Flande of the Colorado Rockies 493 feet to the back of the left field bleachers at Coors Field. he finished the season with a .229 average in 138 games with 14 homers and 63 RBIs. he ended up as Washington's most-used centerfielder because Denard Span, the projected starter, missed much of the season with an injury.

In 2016, Michael won the starting CF job in spring training, following Span's departure via free agency, but he started off slowly, hitting .183 in April and .217 in May. He had finally gotten hot, hitting .378 in his first 13 games in June, when he had an absolutely nightmarish game on June 22nd against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not only did he strike out five times to wear the proverbial platinum sombrero, but in the bottom of the 9th, with the Nationals trying to preserve a 3-2 lead with Howie Kendrick having just reached base on a pinch-hit single, he let a single by Yasiel Puig roll under his glove all the way to the wall. The Cuban circled the bases for a walk-off Little League homer on the three-base error, giving the Dodgers a 4-3 win. "You have to catch it first", commented manager Dusty Baker after the game, explaining that Taylor had wanted to rush a throw to third base to prevent Kendrick from taking an extra base, and instead had thrown the whole thing away. Rookie Trea Turner eventually took over the starting job and Michael played 76 games, hitting .231 with 7 homers and 16 RBIs. In the postseason, he played three games in the Division Series against the Dodgers, going 0 for 2 and striking out in both at-bats.

Before the 2017 season, the Nationals acquired Adam Eaton in a trade to play centerfield while Turner moved over to his natural position, shortstop, and Taylor was confined to the bench. However, after a great month of April, Eaton suffered a season-ending injury, and Taylor got a chance to play in his absence, having his best season with the bat. On September 8th, he had a very rare hit: an inside-the-park grand slam. In the 3rd inning against the Philadelphia Phillies, his apparently routine fly ball to centerfield eluded Odubel Herrera, sailing over his head and rolling to the fence, allowing all three baserunners and Michael to circle the bases. Washington won the wild game, 11-10. He had the biggest hit of his career in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Chicago Cubs: with Washington hanging on to a slim 1-0 lead in the 8th inning at Wrigley Field, he came up with two outs and the bases loaded against Wade Davis, with a swirling wind blowing in from the outfield, but still managed to lift a pitch into the wire basket in front of the right field stands for a grand slam that gave the Nats their final margin of victory, 5-0 and force a decisive fifth game. The Nats lost Game 5, but Michael finished the series batting .333 with 2 homers and 8 RBIs.

In 2018, he played a career-high 134 games but fell to .227 with 6 homers and 28 RBIs. His OPS+ of 69 was in line with what he had put up in his first three seasons, making his solid 2017 season the outlier. In 2019, however, he suffered a couple of injuries in spring training, sprains to his left knee and left hip, putting him on the shelf for an extended period. He was ready shortly after opening day, but then missed all of July and August with another injury and ended up playing just 53 games and hitting .250 with 1 homer and 3 RBIs, being largely confined to the role of defensive replacement in the outfield. However, this was the year Washington caught fire in the postseason and went on to win the first World Series in franchise history. He scored a run in the Nats' win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Game, then went 4 for 12 in their upset win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series. He hit a homer in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals and another one in his only at-bat of the World Series against the Houston Astros. That came in Game 2 on October 23rd, in a 12-3 win, as he connected off Chris Devenski in the 9th inning after having come into the game as a defensive replacement. It had little effect on the game or the series' outcome, but it allowed him to join the select club of players having homered in their lone World Series at-bat, with Jim Mason, Geoff Blum and Bobby Kielty.

Michael struggled again in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, as he batted just .196 in 38 games and was becoming more and more of an afterthought on the Nationals. It was thus great for him when he signed a free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals before the 2021 season, as it gave him an opportunity to be an everyday player as the starting centerfielder. He made the most of the opportunity by winning the Gold Glove that year, although he was still a below average player with the bat, hitting .244 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs, the occasional home run being unable to compensate for an OBP below .300. As a result, his OPS+ was 77. He improved a bit in 2022, bringing that number to 90 as he hit .254 in 124 games, with 9 homers and 43 RBIs.

On January 23, 2023, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins in return for two minor league pitchers. He was not looked at as a starter in the outfield, but as an insurance policy in the likely case that Byron Buxton would once again be hit by the injury bug, being a much-better all-around player than his back-up the previous season, Gilberto Celestino.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mark Bowman: "Taylor fulfills promise with against-all-odds slam: Nationals' center fielder puts exclamation point on Game 4 victory", mlb.com, October 11, 2017. [1]
  • Jamal Collier: "Taylor driven to eclipse breakout campaign: Budding Nats star entrenched in CF, but top prospect Robles waiting in wings", mlb.com, January 4, 2018. [2]

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