Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked in a mid-January MLB Network Radio interview what the Nats would do if veteran outfielder Jayson Werth, who expects to be fully-recovered from shoulder surgery in time for Opening Day, were to suffer a setback or take longer to heal than expected.
"We feel that we have a situation in left field that we can put a platoon system of Nate McLouth and Tyler Moore or an everyday situation of Michael Taylor in left field that really can strengthen our defense with Michael in there and with Nate in there and a right-handed bat in Tyler Moore," Rizzo said.
"So we do have some options," Rizzo continued. "Obviously, none of them are Jayson Werth out there, but like we've seen on other teams and with ourselves last year, guys have to step up and play."
Nate McLouth's 2014 campaign ended when he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Moore spent the majority of the 2014 season at Triple-A Syracuse and he's out of options going into Spring Training.
Michael Taylor, who'll turn 24 in March, made his MLB debut last season after tearing up Double-A pitching to the tune of a .313/.396/.539 line with 17 doubles and 22 HRs in 98 games and 441 plate appearances. Taylor made a quick jump to Triple-A for a 12-game stay and then was called up to the majors.
Though he struck out 130 times in 441 PAs at Double-A last season (29.5 K%) and 17 times in 43 PAs with the Nats (39.5 K% in an admittedly small sample size), Taylor's breakthrough campaign put him on the map and in the mix for a bench role with the Nationals.
His goal heading into the 2015 campaign, he explained this winter, was to cut down on the strikeouts and become more consistent at the plate.
"I think it's all about being consistent at this level," Taylor said. "Everybody can play, it's just how often you can hit that spot or how often you can barrel up the ball."
In an MLB Network Radio interview on Friday, Nats' Assistant GM and VP of Player Development and Pro Scouting, Doug Harris, talked to hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette about Taylor's big season and future.
"First, the biggest adjustment he made was the evolution of his approach," Harris said. "His base was significantly better last year. His posture was better and with that the confidence grew.
"It continues to be a process with him, harnessing his approach and from an ability standpoint the sky is the limit with Michael. He showed glimpses last year when he came to the big leagues of what he's capable of doing and we feel like he will have an opportunity to contribute at some point this year."
Will he start at Triple-A if Werth is healthy? Would he be better off playing everyday with the Nationals' top affiliate than coming off the bench with the Nats?
Taylor enters the season as the top-rated outfielder in the organization on Baseball America's list, surpassing 2011 1st Round pick, Brian Goodwin, who started the 2014 campaign as the highest-ranked outfielder in the Nats' system.
Goodwin struggled, however, and the 24-year-old outfielder played just 81 games before he suffered a torn labrum which required season-ending surgery.
As Harris explained on Friday, the Nationals, in Taylor and Goodwin, have two talented potential, future center fielders in the organization.
"I think there are some similarities with Michael [Taylor]," Harris said.
"A little different skill set, but the struggles that he's had have been tied to his approach. It's really getting him in the proper position with his approach to attack the ball on a consistent basis."
Goodwin's third season in the Nationals' system ended after 329 PA in which he put up a .219/.342/.328 line with 10 doubles, four triples and four home runs.
"He was starting to get it going just before he injured himself last year," Harris said. "And we're taking steps as we speak to harness that approach and we're going to continue to grind it out. He's a young man with a lot of talent, can do a lot of different things within the game it's just a matter of putting him in a position to execute pitch to pitch."
The Nationals picked up Denard Span's $9M option for the 2015 campaign after the soon-to-turn 31-year-old put together a solid .302/.355/.416, 39 double, 31 stolen base, +3.8 fWAR season.
Will it be Span's final run with the Nats? Will Taylor be ready to take over in center in 2016? Can Goodwin bounce back this season and put himself back in the discussion for the future Nationals' outfield?
Any chance Span stays in D.C. beyond 2015?