Michael A. Taylor was 0 for 20 over the last eight-plus games after grounding out on a 1-2 curve from San Diego Padres’ lefty Joey Lucchesi in the first at bat of Wednesday’s series finale in Petco Park.
Taylor, 27, entered the third of three with the Padres with a .184/.261/.312 line on the season, seven doubles, three home runs, 13 walks, and 33 Ks in 139 PAs, looking to get things going after struggling out of the gate in his fifth major league season following something of a breakout campaign in 2017, which saw him put up a .271/.320/.486 line, 23 doubles, and 19 home runs in 432 plate appearances.
“He’s taking his walks, which is good,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters in San Diego before Tuesday night’s 4-0 win.
“I talked a little bit today about him and just staying in the middle of the field, and just putting the ball in play, especially with two strikes.
“Not asking him to hit home runs, just move the ball and put the ball in play. I like Michael, and he’s going to be good. He’s going to be really good, so you know, once it clicks, as you know he’s very streaky, and we can ride him for a month.”
Taylor was 0 for 7 with four Ks in the first two games with the Padres, and Martinez put him in the leadoff spot with Bryce Harper sitting out in the series finale, explaining that he was hoping a matchup against Lucchesi might help his center fielder get going.
“I like Taylor against this guy today,” Martinez said, “... and plus I really want to jumpstart him and make him feel good about himself, and I think this is a perfect opportunity to get him up there, and see if we can get him some pitches to hit.”
Taylor went down swinging at a 1-2 sinker up high in his second trip to the plate, but he reached on what was ruled a single when the Padres’ shortstop, Christian Villanueva couldn’t get a hard-hit grounder to the left side of the infield, snapping his 0-for streak after 22 at bats.
A flyout to right in the eighth left Taylor 1 for 4 overall on the night.
With Adam Eaton, who traveled to Wisconsin to get a second opinion on his injured ankle, still out of the lineup, and top outfield prospect Victor Robles (hyperextended elbow) likely to remain out of action for weeks, if not months, the Nats need production from Taylor, who finished Wednesday night with a .186/.261/.310 line on the season.
What other options do the Nationals have? Juan Soto? Would the Nationals actually bring the 19-year-old up at some point if Taylor continued to struggle at the plate?
MASN’s Byron Kerr did note in an article yesterday that Soto, who has a .371/.466/.790 line, three doubles, seven home runs, 11 walks, and eight Ks in 73 PAs since jumping to High-A Potomac, has played a few games in center field recently, to get him, “... some reps there to give him exposure to all positions in the outfield,” as Nats’ director of Player Development Mark Scialabba told him. Soto jumping to the majors at some point this season seems like a stretch... though he did apparently just get promoted to Double-A...
The Nationals need to get Michael A. Taylor going at the plate. Andrew Stevenson is another defense-first outfielder at this point in his development. Moises Sierra, while serviceable as a bench bat, isn’t likely to provide the sort of the production they need, and the rest of the outfielders at Double and Triple-A? Daniel Johnson? Bring Rafael Bautista back? Taylor’s the best option at the moment, even with his lack of production at the plate.
[ed. note - “As mentioned in the comments, yes, we forgot Brian Goodwin as an option, when/if he’s back from his wrist issues.”]