by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Nationals Michael Taylor is not always mentioned among the better prospects in the game, but early on in 2014 he certainly belongs in the discussion. Through Saturday he was hitting .319 with 14 HR and 14 SB in 191 AB at Double-A. Is it for real, though?
Right off the bat, the average is a major concern. While he has the speed to maintain an elevated BABIP (including 51 SB in 2013), he currently owns a .446 BABIP. Couple that with a 13.8% line drive rate as well as a 33.6% strikeout rate and there should be alarm bells sounding.
A sixth round pick in 2009, Taylor’s minor league career average is .257 and he owns a line drive rate of 15.1% since 2011. This season’s strikeout rate is a bit extreme, with marks of 24.6%, 26.2% and 22.2% the previous three seasons. Still, considering they came in Single-A, those numbers are worrisome.
It simply doesn’t appear like he has the make-up of an average producer, barring a dramatic change in his approach. That is the major concern, as there is no doubting his overall skillset:
John Sickels of Minor League Ball (click here for his Top 20 Nationals prospects) said:
“Outstanding defensive outfielder, stole 51 bases in High-A last year. Has some power potential as well, although hitting skills less refined than defense/baserunning. Contact troubles may prevent high batting average but his broad base of tools will get him to the majors eventually.”
Baseball Instinct said (click here for their Top 21 Nationals prospects):
“Taylor oozes talent but as long as he goes up to the plate swinging at everything, he’s going to be limited. Breaking pitches kill Taylor and he may never be able to take full advantage of his speed with a limited batting average. Taylor will be at AA for most of the 2014 season and will really have to focus at the plate or get picked apart by advanced pitchers.”
The talent is evident, but something needs to give. The speed is there. After hitting 10 HR, as well as 41 doubles and 6 triples, in 2013 there is no questioning the power potential (though it’s easy to say he has no shot at maintaining his current 36.8% HR/OFB rate).
The question about Taylor boils down to his ability to hit for a decent average. If he can, he should prove to be a tremendous fantasy asset. If he can’t? He becomes Drew Stubbs.
Time will certainly tell, but this season’s underlying numbers are not promising.
Sources – Minor League Central, Baseball Reference, Baseball Instinct, Minor League Ball