Michael A. Taylor tore up Grapefruit League pitching last Spring, getting off to a 24 for 53 (.453/.491/.849) start to the 2016 campaign and hitting six doubles and five homers, with four walks and 15 Ks over 20 games in Spring Training.
Taylor, who turned 25 in late March, did not, however, carry that start into the regular season, and given a chance to play on a regular basis, he struggled out of the gate.
Over the first 20 games in April, the Washington Nationals’ outfielder went 15 for 82 (.183/.218/.317) with two doubles and three home runs, four walks and 28 Ks.
"It just goes to show you sometimes that Spring Training doesn't translate to how you do during the season early,” Dusty Baker told reporters early in his first season in D.C.
“But what does translate is how we feel that Michael has the ability to return to that form. I mean if you've never done that well before and it's something else, but he has played well for us."
In spite of his struggles, Taylor remained in the majors until early July, appearing in 61 games (40 starts), and posting a .225/.266/.372 line with 10 doubles, six home runs, 10 walks and 64 Ks before he was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
Baker talked then about what he said was a difficult decision to send Taylor to the Nationals’ top minor league affiliate.
"What goes into that decision -- we felt that Michael needed some at bats," he explained.
“That's not the move that we really wanted to make really, but we though it might help Michael to go down and play and he can be back in ten days."
Taylor did return to the majors a week later, but he played just 16 games in the majors over the last three-plus months of the regular season, posting a .267/.353/.400 line (8 for 30) with a double, a home run, four walks and 13 Ks over that stretch.
Taylor finished the season with a .231/.278/.376 line, 11 doubles and seven home runs, 14 walks and 77 Ks in 76 games and 237 plate appearances.
He was added to the postseason roster, but made just two plate appearances, striking out in each.
The opportunities weren’t necessarily there for Taylor in the majors this season, once Ben Revere returned from an oblique strain suffered on Opening Day, but Taylor was given an opportunity to get regular at bats early and struggled, Baker explained, so it was tough.
"He could have secured this job. He had six weeks to secure the job," Baker explained in mid-June.
"Sometimes when a guy comes back, you realize what you could have had, and you also kind of see -- there wasn’t much competition when Ben was gone,” he said.
So where does Taylor stand now?
Revere struggled too, in his first season with the Nationals, and he’s considered a non-tender candidate after a .217/.260/.300, nine double, seven triple, two home run, -1.2 fWAR campaign in the nation’s capital.
Trea Turner ended up taking over in center field as the Nats tried to get his bat and on-base skills into the lineup.
Do they stick with Turner in center if they can’t find an outfield bat this winter?
Do they tender a contract to Revere and hope he’s more like the player who put up a combined .295/.328/.348 line in his major league career before last season?
If the Nationals non-tender Revere, find an outfielder, and move Turner to short, does Michael A. Taylor stay in the majors as a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement?
Or is it back to Triple-A to get regular at bats?
“[Taylor] has big four tools, but fans WAY too much,” Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote in a chat with readers on Monday, when asked about the chances that outfield prospect Andrew Stevenson is for real.
“[Taylor] can tap his talent and be a shocker. Each year that goes past his chances are worse. But if he ever figures it out and makes enough contact....
“I wish I had a buck for every player I've heard that said about. But it's still true.”
Can Taylor, who’ll turn 26 before the season starts, finally put it all together? Can he hit in limited at bats if necessary? What does the future hold for the Nationals’ outfielder?