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Washington Nationals’ Michael A. Taylor on breakout 2017 campaign; improvements for 2018 + more...

Michael A. Taylor talked to reporters last weekend about his breakout campaign this past season and what he needs to do to repeat that success...

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Michael A. Taylor got yet another opportunity to claim a starting role in Washington’s outfield when Nationals’ center fielder Adam Eaton went down with a season-ending knee injury late this past April.

Now-former Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker told the 26-year-old outfielder he needed to make the most of the opportunity because you only get so many in one career.

“I told him this morning he’s been very blessed to keep getting these opportunities,” Baker told reporters late in the first month of the season.

“You’ve got to capitalize on them, because this is a lifetime of opportunity for him.

“He’s arbitration-eligible. He’s trying to get an every day job back, so just play ball, that’s the main thing, just play.”

Taylor put up a .271/.320/.486 line for the season, with 23 doubles and 19 home runs in 118 games and 432 plate appearances, over which he produced 105 wRC+, finishing the year at a career-high 3.1 fWAR.

After earning $557,900 this past season, is projecting a raise to around $2.3M in 2018.

“Michael [A.] Taylor came on the last couple years,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said during an appearance on the MLB Network show MLB Now last month.

Divisional Round - Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals - Game Five Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

“He got better and better each time. As the season wore on he became a really good player for us, a real factor for us. He was one of the finalists for the Gold Glove in center field, he’s got as good a throwing arm as anybody, he can steal a base when he needs to, and when he barrels it up it stays hit, so he can do a lot of things for us.”

Rizzo was asked about potentially trading Taylor this winter, if he or another outfielder (in a deep outfield corps) could bring back what the Nats need elsewhere on their roster, but he seemed to downplay that possibility.

“We like him,” Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings.

“He’s a really good, dynamic, impactful player that we have under control for a long time and that’s priced very nicely for us. He’s another guy that we drafted and developed. We drafted [him] as a shortstop, developed him as an outfielder, he’s come a long way for us and I think he’s just scratching the surface.”

Taylor wrapped up his 2017 campaign with a strong showing in the NLDS, going 5 for 15 with two home runs in the five-game loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Looking back on his season last weekend, Taylor said he thought he took a big step.

“I felt like I made some strides in my game,” Taylor told reporters, “and every year I try to learn, and learn from my mistakes and continue to move forward in my career, and I felt like I made some adjustments that were necessary, but obviously there’s still a lot I want to work on.”

Now the task will be to try to do it again, and produce the same sort of numbers after putting up a combined .228/.281/.363 line in part-time work over the first three years in the majors.

“I put some things in my routine I think that have helped me,” Taylor said when asked how he’d try to produce similar results.

“So just kind of sticking to my program and trusting the process and go about my work every day, and just relax up there.”

As of now, Taylor appears to have the starting job in center lined up, with Adam Eaton in left, and Bryce Harper in right.

Heading into Spring Training in that position will be different from previous seasons, but Taylor said he is, of course, not taking anything for granted.

“I’m trying to take the same approach as I have in years past,” Taylor said, “... and every year just come out ready to go and be in the best position I can be to go out there and play in whatever role I’m in.”

“If that’s the case,” he said of going into Spring Training as the starter in center, “then it’s nice, but anything can happen.”

Asked what he’s working on this winter, or determined to improve upon in 2018, Taylor said, “a little bit of everything.”

“Mainly continue to cut down on the strikeouts and trying to work on putting the ball in play early in the count and then things will build off there whether it’s stealing more bags, and defense is something that I’m always trying to work on and throws and things like that.

“I felt like my arm didn’t play as well as I’d like it to, so it’s something that I’m working on this year, as far as my throwing program and things like that.”

His arm didn’t play the way he wanted?

“I didn’t have any arm problems,” Taylor explained, “... but you can tell when the ball is coming out good, and I felt like I made some good throws during the year, but I’d just like to be a little more consistent with accuracy and I wouldn’t say velocity, but just the way the balls carry and things like that.”

He did, as Rizzo mentioned, manage to become a Gold Glove finalist for the first time in his career this past season.

Though he didn’t win the award, he said he was happy to be a finalist.

“It was exciting,” Taylor said. “I was definitely thankful for being mentioned in that. I’d like to win it one year, but it’s good. Defense is something that I take pride in and work really hard on, so it’s nice when things look like they’re working.”