WASHINGTON –– Michael A. Taylor has proved a necessary relief in the Nationals’ lineup since Adam Eaton was lost for the season.
Taylor, with five doubles, two triples, two home runs and three stolen bases, has brought speed and power to the base paths, a welcome response to his up-and-down 2016 season in which he bounced back and forth between the big-league roster and Triple-A.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, during his weekly appearance on The Sports Junkies Wednesday, was asked about Taylor’s resurgence as part of the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week.
How impressed are you with how well Michael A. Taylor has responded to this chance he’s been given with the injury to Adam Eaton? — Jeff in Gaithersburg
“Michael A. has been a guy we’ve had high expectations for for a long time,” Rizzo said. “Offensively, he’s much more efficient, controlling the strike zone much, much better, which is the key to his success.”
Taylor has cut down his swing percentage by 4.6 percent since last season on pitches inside the strike zone, according to FanGraphs.com, though his swing percentage on pitches outside the zone has risen slightly (+1.4). Similarly, Taylor’s strikeout percentage (36.5) is also up over his 2016 rate (32.5), though his .276 batting average and .308 on-base percentage are both improvements upon his .231/.278 slash line.
Which is all a fancy way of saying he’s doing more with the pitches he does connect with — his .424 batting average against balls in play is up dramatically from his .319 BAbip last season.
“He’s got everything that you want in a baseball player,” Rizzo said. “He plays great defense, great range, angles, route to the baseball in center field; he throws extremely well; he can fly; he can steal you a base when everybody in the ballpark knows he’s stealing a base; and he’s got big-time power.”
“His problems come when he chases out of the strike zone and he’s gotten much more efficient in his strike zone knowledge. He’s swinging at many more balls in the strike zone, and when he does that he can be a really, really good Major League player.”
“He’s really taken to the eight hole in the lineup, which is a very difficult in the National League to hit in,” he said. “He’s a guy that we’re going to have to lean on greatly this year, and not only this year, he’s a part of our future in the outfield when Adam Eaton gets back.”