If at the beginning of the season you thought Michael A. Taylor would have sixteen home runs and be batting .274, you need to head to Vegas because the odds are in your favour. Expectations for Michael A. this season were pretty low. He had always been a good defender but struck out literally once every three plate appearances. His batting average was low and it felt like he was rarely able to contribute offensively.
There are some hitters you want at the plate in big situations (the Bryce Harpers of the world), but Michael A. was the opposite. Taylor was granted a final opportunity when Adam Eaton went down for the season and he has carpe’d that diem.
The 2015 season was the first time we saw Taylor for enough games to consider a good sample size, and the results at the plate were not great. His ISO was just .129 and he had a wOBA of .274. He wasn’t hitting for power and he wasn’t getting on base. (Not a winning combo.) His wRC+ of 69 means he was 31 percent below league average offensively. Despite those lackluster numbers in his first full season, there was a glimmer of hope in his sixteen stolen bases and fourteen homers. Those stats made you look twice and think, “There’s potential there, but for what?”
When the season opened, he was on the bench. It wasn’t until Adam Eaton tore up his leg running out a ground ball that Michael A. Taylor got the opportunity to play every day. Dusty Baker made it clear that his time to make an impression was short:
Dusty said he's giving Michael Taylor "one or two more" opportunities at CF, told Taylor he needs to capitalize on chance.— Allie Berube (@allieberube) April 29, 2017
He rose to that challenge. It is surprising, to me, because the thing about Michael A. is that he is almost too chill. He has a calm, reserved demeanor and is very soft-spoken. He’s quiet in the batter’s box as well, and is the last person on the team you’d expect to hit for power. Yet, after a terrible sophomore season, he has rebounded spectacularly.
Michael A. Taylor at the Plate
Michael A. has set a career-high home run total in about two-thirds as many plate appearances as he had in 2015 when he played in 138 games. He has more than doubled last season’s homer total! He still strikes out nearly a third of the time, but his isolated power has jumped nearly one-hundred points from where it was 2015! Additionally, his wRC+ is over one-hundred for the first time. It is a significant jump to, from one season to the next, go from 28 percent below league average to nine percent over. Michael A. is proving he can make strong contact and put the ball in play.
He’s hitting for more power now and getting on base at a higher clip, which allows his defensive capability to shine. Before, defense kept him afloat. Now that he contributes on both sides of the field, we can really appreciate plays like this one:
There is still enough time in the season for Michael A. to surpass his previous record of sixteen stolen bases. He has fourteen this year, and that is not the only way his speed has been a game changer. He is obviously fast enough to make some spectacular catches in center field, but tell me this isn’t the coolest thing you’ve seen since the All Star break:
You don't see this everyday...— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 9, 2017
An INSIDE-THE-PARK GRAND SLAM for Michael Taylor pic.twitter.com/XrSFQeXpFl
This season, just when his window was about to close, Michael A. finally put all the pieces together. It is immensely satisfying. His improvement might fly under the radar since he is on a team with sluggers like Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, but he is a legit contributor now. I am excited to see this Michael A. Taylor in the postseason. He has learned to hit for more power, he gets on base, and he makes spectacular plays in center field. We can’t ask for much more than that.
Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Federal Baseball. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.