WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals expected Michael A. Taylor to spend some time in the minor leagues working on his swing after optioning him to Class-AAA Syracuse on Monday.
Taylor was batting .225 with a .266 on-base percentage and 64 strikeouts 60 games into his second full Major League season, and after a brief offensive spike at the start of June — in which he hit .378 with two homers and six RBI over a 13-game stretch — Taylor was again derailed after an embarrassing 0-for-5, 5-strikeout night in Los Angeles which concluded with him making a game-ending error.
Sending the 25-year-old outfielder back down to the farm wasn’t an easy call for General Manager Mike Rizzo.
But Taylor was clearly struggling, as evidenced by him putting forward yet another 0-for-5 performance — his second in less than two weeks — in Sunday’s 12-1 win over the Reds. He was gone the next day.
“Those decisions, guys, they’re always tough,” Rizzo told The Sports Junkies during his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance on Wednesday. “Michael’s a guy who’s easy to love, you know what I mean?”
Rizzo was prompted to speak on Taylor by way of the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week, a regular feature during his radio appearance which offers one fan a chance to question the front office head.
How difficult was it to send Michael A. Taylor to Triple-A Syracuse? And what does he need to work on in the minors? — Brenda in Woodbridge
“This guy is a quality human being that works extremely hard,” Rizzo glowed of Taylor in his response.
“The thing he has to work on in the minor leagues is just play every day. He’s a guy that’s never played off the bench before. He’s got such a great skill set for Dusty that it’s a luxury to have him around. You know, plus-plus speed off the bench. He’s got power when he makes contact. He’s a great defensive player that can be a defensive replacement, he could be a double-switch candidate and that type of thing.”
“But when you’re not playing every day, and you’re used to playing every day and you’re a young player, it’s difficult to come off the bench and play once or twice a week, get four or five at-bats per week,” he said.
“And we felt that it was in his best interest to send him to the minors, play every day, get the feel back. Especially during the All-Star break where he can play in the minor leagues through the All-Star break and get some needed everyday, consistent at-bats, and see if he can get back on plan with his swing and get a feel for his offensive game again.”
Rizzo was also prompted to speak on Taylor’s horrific game in LA two weeks ago, to which the GM/President of Baseball Ops. lightheartedly replied, “I went up to him after the game and just kinda laughed. It’s like, ‘Wow. It don’t get any worse than that.'”
After the game, Rizzo says, all 24 of Taylor’s teammates approached him and “did something, said something, made him laugh or had some kind of smart-a– comment or some encouragement. … because he’s beloved here. He’s an easy guy to like because he’s such a great person and a great kid.”
“He’s going to have a really, really good, long career, successful career in the big leagues,” Rizzo added. “He’ll never forget that game — I guarantee you that.”
About that… Taylor was recalled to the big leagues — along with Trea Turner — Friday afternoon. He played exactly one game for Syracuse.