Projected to be the Nationals' fourth outfielder this season, Michael Taylor brings several attributes that make him ideal for an MLB bench.
If you're looking for speed, he's got it. He stole 16 bases in 19 tries in 2015 and once had 51 steals in 58 attempts as a Single-A player in 2013. The athletic tools are there, he's a smart player and having baserunning expert Davey Lopes on staff will only help.
If the Nats need a defensive replacement late in a game - for, say, Jayson Werth - Taylor also brings value there. He showed tremendous range and athleticism in 2015, and good instincts overall. Taylor can play plus-defense particularly in center field, which gives the Nats a luxury for their bench that many teams don't have.
Taylor also has pretty good power. He clubbed 14 homers in 138 games last season and had 23 in 110 minor league games in 2014. If Dusty Baker needs some pop off his bench, Taylor may be the guy depending on the situation.
Where Taylor will need to improve to earn Baker's trust is in cutting down strikeouts and it won't be easy to do that with infrequent at-bats. Taylor needs to get more consistent at the plate and his new role could make that difficult.
Taylor is doing his best to prepare for the unpredictability of his expected role on the bench.
"I think the biggest difference that I've noticed the last few years is just that coming off the bench is a little different not having the timing or the flow of the game. You're kind of thrown into an at-bat. That being said, it's not something that is impossible. Guys are able to do it," he said.
Taylor put in more time this offseason watching film and hopes an extra effort in studying pitchers will help him as a bench player.
"I have learned a few things I can do to help myself personally. Whether that's track pitches in the dugout or just tracking in between games in live BPs or bullpens," he said.
Taylor's career so far off the bench is a small sample size, but there are some numbers that suggest he has already been successful as a reserve.
Check out his splits as a starter and a sub:
Starter: 129 G, 485 AB, 111 H, 48 R, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 36 BB, 168 SO, .229 BA, .284 OBP, .346 SLG, .630 OPS, .322 BABIP, 97 OPS+
Sub: 26 G, 26 AB, 5 H, 6 R, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 2 BB, 7 SO, .192 BA, .250 OBP, .577 SLG, .827 OPS, .125 BABIP, 150 OPS+
The first thing that may jump out is Taylor's low batting average (.192) off the bench, but some of his other numbers as a substitute are impressive. For one, his .827 OPS is quite a bit higher than his .640 career OPS overall. He also has a .125 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which could mean he's had some tough-luck outs.
Another number that could help his cause is one that was cited many times by those who cover the Nationals in 2015. That is his .304/.379/.478 slash-line in 115 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Matt Williams raved about Taylor's approach with RISP last season, saying his ability to shorten his swing and patiently wait for pitches was the key to his success. His .379 OBP with RISP - compared to his .282 career mark - speaks to that.
Taylor has been a standout for the Nats so far this spring, hitting .364 with seven total bases in 11 at-bats. It may be tough for him to win him a starting job on Opening Day with the depth on the Nats' roster, but Taylor he can be a very valuable player on their bench.