In the first of our series looking at the current roster with an emphasis on projections for next season, we will take a look at Michael A. Taylor. MAT has been bouncing between a full-time every day player, the bench 4th outfielder, late inning defensive replacement, pinch-hitter, and pinch-runner type for a couple of years now. At this time, we have a pretty good idea of who MAT is and what he brings to the table.
Taylor is a brilliant defensive center fielder — likely a top 5 in all of baseball at least. He is also a high strikeout, low contact hitter who gets into a groove occasionally if he plays every day, his value as a pinch hitter isn’t very much especially in situations which call for contact. Before Adam Eaton returned this season, MAT looked to be on his way to another 3+ WAR season based largely on his superior defense, however his power seems to have disappeared altogether in 2018.
Where does Michael A. fit in 2019? Well, like most of the outfielders, his position is tied to some degree on what happens with the Bryce Harper free agency. If Harper re-signs with the Nats, there is a strong possibility that Victor Robles will be traded for pitching help making the outfield completely left-handed and making a MAT return logical. This would however not be an ideal situation for the team or for Taylor. MAT has shown that he is not a good bench player and at the same time his skill set probably slots him to play regularly somewhere else.
If Harper leaves, the odds favor an outfield of Soto, Robles and Eaton leaving Taylor as the odd man out again except now the need for a right-handed outfielder diminishes and possibly opens the door for the lefty Andrew Stevenson as the 4th outfielder, Stevo is equally adept at center field defense and looks like a much better choice as a late inning pinch hitter with a lower strikeout rate and higher contact rate.
Taylor began the 2018 season as the starting center fielder based on his strong 2017 season and impressive showing in the NLDS. Taylor’s 2017 campaign set personal records in every part of the slash with a .271 batting average and an .806 OPS coupled with 17 stolen bases. Unfortunately for the Nationals and Taylor, his 2018 season began in a deep slump as he was batting .186 on May 23rd. A road trip to his hometown Miami on May 25th put Taylor in a hot streak that lasted until he was replaced by a combination of the teenage phenom, Juan Soto, and Adam Eaton who returned from the DL in June. For that 30-day period from that Miami road trip forward, Taylor was en fuego (.392/.451/.595/1.046) and went back in a slump when he became a bench player and now is in a deep funk as we witnessed last night where he swung at 3 pitches out of the zone and making contact with not one pitch.
It seems to me that considering all scenarios (and there may well be other scenarios we are not considering) the team and Taylor are better off with a trade elsewhere, also adding to the equation is the fact that Taylor will have earned enough service time to get him a better paying job. The question is what trade value does Taylor have? And the probable answer is not much. Still it might be time to flip him for a decent lottery ticket.