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2016 Nats roster outlook: Will Michael Taylor become an everyday outfielder?

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2016 Nats roster outlook: Will Michael Taylor become an everyday outfielder?

Age on Opening Day 2016: 25

How acquired: Drafted by Nationals, 6th round, 2009

2015 stats: .229 AVG, .282 OBP, .358 SLG, 14 HR, 63 RBI, 16 SB  

2016 storyline: Thanks to injuries to Jayson Werth and Denard Span, the 24-year-old Taylor got his first extended opportunity to play in the big leagues last season. Though he flashed ability as a power-hitting, rangy centerfielder, he went through some of the typical rookie struggles and was unable to put together long stretches of quality play. Still, his season totals were more than respectable; he hit .229/.282/.358 with 14 homers, 15 doubles and 63 RBI in 138 games. So you have to figure that he'd shown enough to be given the job full time in 2016, right? 

Not so much, apparently. One of the Nats' biggest moves this offseason was the acquisition of veteran centerfielder Ben Revere from the Blue Jays, a sign that the organization isn't yet ready to anoint Taylor as the everyday guy. But just because he may start the season on the bench, that doesn't mean he won't get another chance somewhere down the line. 

Best-case scenario: Because Taylor will start the year off as the fourth outfielder, it appears that the only way he will get significant at-bats is if someone at the top of the outfield depth chart suffers an injury. 

If given another chance to play more, the best case for Taylor is that he proves to the Nats once and for all that he's ready to become an everyday presence in the lineup. In order to do that, he's first got to cut down on the strikeouts. He K'd 158 times in 2015, second on the team only to Ian Desmond's 187 whiffs. If Taylor can get that number down, play as well defensively as he did during the the final two months of last season and continue to display power to all fields, an outfield job should be his. 

Worse-case scenario: Taylor's growth could be stunted this season if the starting outfielders stay healthy throughout the season. That'd be a good thing for the team as a whole, but it'd mean fewer at-bats for someone who could eventually blossom into a solid player. What'd be even worse is if Taylor struggles in the limited opportunities he's given. 

Most-likely scenario: Predicting injury is a tough thing to do, but let's say there's a stretch where Taylor might get more run because he's filling in for someone else. If that's the case, it's reasonable to expect somewhere between 250-to-300 at-bats for him in 2016. Taylor raising his average up to around the .250 mark seems realistic enough, though it's likely his home run total will be down from 2015. 

[MORE: Dusty Baker on Nationals: "Why not now, and why not me?"]

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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@MLB

Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.