One year ago, Michael Taylor was positioned to be the heir apparent to Denard Span as the Nationals' starting center fielder. He was coming off a tremendous season in the minor leagues, had already made his MLB debut late in 2014, and looked like the prospect who could do just about everything.
Life came at Taylor fast in 2015, as injuries to Span and Jayson Werth forced him to take on a larger role earlier than expected. But, it was seen by many as valuable experience to set him up as the full-time center fielder for 2016 and beyond.
All of that was perhaps changed over the weekend when the Nats executed a trade for center fielder Ben Revere. Taylor is a promising talent, but guys who hit .300 consistently and steal 30 bases per season like Revere don't just sit on the bench. Between Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Revere, the Nationals appear to have their starting outfield set for at least the next two seasons.
Where does that leave Taylor? Well, the Nationals aren't willing to specify what his role will be moving forward.
"That remains to be seen," GM Mike Rizzo said about whether Revere will start in center field.
"We got ourselves five really good outfielders, I think, on the roster right now that are gonna compete for playing time. Jayson Werth and Harp, obviously, there gonna get their at-bats whenever they’re able to do so. You got Michael Taylor, a special prospect and a really good player that emerged on the big league level last year."
One day before Rizzo traded for Revere, he spoke glowingly of Taylor and his future with the franchise.
"I love Michael Taylor. I love him in center field. I think he will improve from last year. He had a heck of a year for us last year, first of all. He was a player probably three or four months ahead of schedule and forced into an everyday role that he probably developmentally wasn’t prepared for. But mentally he came through. He was extremely prepared mentally for it. As the season wore on, he got better and better each and every month. This guy, when the pressure was the biggest, he performed at his best. This guy got as many big hits for us as anybody on the ballclub did last year and performed extremely well for us. Very high hopes for Michael Taylor and a guy that we really like," he explained.
The Nationals see plenty of positives in having four starting-caliber outfielders. The possibility of Werth staying healthy all season would appear slim, given his recent durability issues. And Harper also has an injury history, save for the 2015 season.
Just because Taylor is projected to be the fourth outfielder, doesn't mean he will be stashed on the bench with limited playing time.
Rizzo has described his outfield as a group several times in recent days.
"With Revere and Taylor, you’ve got yourself two of the best defensive guys in the league. And of course, you got Harp who’s a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder and Jayson who knows how to play all three positions also. So we feel good about the versatility. We feel good about the athleticism and we feel good about the improvement that we’ve had in all facets of our roster," he said.
Though it would appear Taylor is the odd-man out after the Revere trade, it's clear the Nats still have him in their plans for the outfield, especially with Werth getting up in age.
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