Well, coming into spring training it left him either to serve as a fourth outfielder or back at Triple-A, where he’d be able to play every day. However, since Grapefruit League games began Taylor has been the Nats’ best hitter, putting up an absurd .485/.514/.848 batting line with three homers, nine RBI and three stolen bases. Could he be changing the club’s train of thought?
That might be premature to say, but FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears that new manager Dusty Baker “is intrigued” by what Taylor could bring to his lineup. The soon-to-be 25-year-old is certainly the team’s best defensive option in center field, as Revere fits much better defensively in left. He also has an interesting blend of power and speed. However, we must remember that Taylor hit just .229/.282/.358 over 511 plate appearances last season. He may be appealing, but the young outfielder is far from a sure bet.
Being intrigued by a player doesn’t mean Baker won’t take the path of least resistance, which would be to either send Taylor down for regular at-bats, or, more likely, make him a very active fourth outfielder. Werth hit just .221/.302/.384 in an injury-shortened 2015 season, is sporting an ugly .167/.200/.292 so far this spring and will turn 37 in May. That said, he batted .292/.394/.455 in 2014 in his last full season and currently has a clean bill of health. Plus, there’s that big salary that, as much as managers like to pretend it isn’t, almost always is a factor in their decision-making process.
Even without an official everyday job, Taylor still has multiple paths to significant playing time. It would behoove the Nationals to give Werth regular days of rest in an effort to keep him healthy, and the club could sit Revere against some lefties (even though he’s hit southpaws well in his career). There’s also the fact that Harper hasn’t exactly been a pillar of health in his career.
Taylor should be able to reach double digits in homers and steals even if he remains a fourth outfielder in 2016, and there’s certainly the possibility of him forcing his way into the regular lineup. That’s the kind of guy you want to gamble on in the later stages of your drafts.
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Nicasio Making Case for Rotation Spot
The Pirates’ rotation was pretty much etched into stone entering spring training, with stalwarts Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano slated to be followed by Jon Niese, Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong. Juan Nicasio is doing his best to change those plans.
Nicasio was brilliant again on Monday, striking out eight over five scoreless frames against the Twins. The outing followed up one last week where Nicasio punched out 10 Orioles batters across four scoreless innings. In 15 Grapefruit League innings, the right-hander has yet to allow a run and boasts a 24/5 K/BB ratio.
Is this another reclamation story from pitching coach Ray Searage? It’s certainly looking like it. Nicasio did strike out 65 batters over 58 1/3 innings with the Dodgers last season, suggesting that he might have found a home as a reliever. It’s possible that’s still the role he’ll ultimately play for the Pirates, but it could be intriguing to see what the 29-year-old would be able to do with a starting role outside of Coors Field.
"When we signed him, we worked off the normalized numbers coming out of Colorado,” general manager Neal Huntington said of Nicasio. “On the surface, they don't look all that pretty, but we think there are some things that we can help, whether it's approach, mechanics, our ballpark, our defense."
There are still a couple weeks left in spring training, so there remains time for Nicasio, Locke and Vogelsong to make a good (or bad) impression. Nicasio is certainly the most interesting of the group for fantasy purposes, as he has put himself on the radar in deeper mixed leagues.
Ethier Gets Additional Test on Leg
Andre Ethier was initially supposed to be sidelined for 2-3 days after fouling a ball of his right leg last Friday. Instead, he still needed crutches to walk around on that third day.
X-rays on the leg over the weekend came back negative, but the lack of progress convinced the Dodgers to send the outfielder for an additional bone scan on Monday. The results of that exam are expected on Tuesday.
Should the bone scan reveal something that would cause Ethier to miss ample time, Trayce Thompson, Enrique Hernandez and Carl Crawford could potentially stand to benefit. Some expect Thompson and/or Hernandez to push Joc Pederson for time in center field, but either could easily slide into the left field job for Ethier. Crawford is currently slated to be a $21 million bench player, but he can still be a useful piece when he’s healthy.
Scott Van Slyke is also around, but his role (as a lefty masher) is probably unchanged regardless of whether Ethier is healthy or not. Alex Guerrero seems likely to be traded in the next two weeks if Ethier is healthy, but if he’s not the Dodgers could choose hang on to him. However, Guerrero is so bad defensively that he’d probably be nothing more than a glorified pinch-hitter.
Thompson is probably the most interesting of this group should he find his way into regular at-bats. He has major contact issues and is never going to hit for average, but the 25-year-old is a terrific athlete and has a nice little package of pop and speed. Ultimately, though, if Ethier is out a while the Dodgers could spread around playing time to multiple parties, thereby limiting the fantasy appeal of all involved.
Quick Hits: Odubel Herrera (finger) is planning to return to Grapefruit League action this week, although Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has admitted that he’s still worried about the outfielder ... Sean Doolittle (triceps) threw about 25 pitches off a mound Monday ... Homer Bailey (elbow) threw live batting practice Monday for the first time since last May’s Tommy John surgery ... Yasmani Grandal left Monday's Cactus League game with a recurrence of right forearm soreness ... Carson Smith had to leave Monday’s appearance with cramping and tightness in his right forearm ... Potential Brewers closer Will Smith tossed another scoreless inning Monday and is unscored upon in seven appearances this spring ... Rymer Liriano (facial fractures) was discharged from the hospital Monday and visited his teammates at the ballpark ... Asdrubal Cabrera (knee) could serve as a designated hitter in minor league games soon ... Jacob deGrom tossed four shutout innings and struck out five against the Marlins on Monday, but his velocity remained down in the low-90s ... The Rangers optioned Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar and Nomar Mazara to Triple-A on Monday ... Anibal Sanchez faced the minimum over four innings Monday in his Grapefruit League debut ... Tyler Skaggs (elbow) is scheduled to throw two innings in a Cactus League game Thursday, which will be his first appearance since Tommy John surgery ... Patrick Corbin struck out seven while allowing one unearned run over 5 1/3 innings on Monday and now boasts a 0.63 ERA this spring ... Jered Weaver (neck) will pitch in another minor league game Friday ... The Brewers named Wily Peralta their Opening Day starter ... Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Monday ... Evan Gattis (hernia) might not play in a single Grapefruit League game this spring ... Joe Ross (heel) expects to take his next turn in the Nationals' spring rotation ... Ross Ohlendorf exercises the opt-out clause in his minor league contract with the Royals ...