WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It's still a little too early in Spring Training to say he has solidified a spot on the 25-man roster, and manager Dusty Baker won't commit to it yet, but Michael Taylor is making a strong case to be the Nationals' fourth outfielder when the
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It's still a little too early in Spring Training to say he has solidified a spot on the 25-man roster, and manager Dusty Baker won't commit to it yet, but Michael Taylor is making a strong case to be the Nationals' fourth outfielder when the club breaks camp at the end of this month.
The speedy Taylor made Washington's Opening Day roster last season, but his struggles making consistent contact at the plate limited his on-base percentage (.274 in 223 plate appearances before being sent down to Triple-A Syracuse in late July) and thus his chances to wreak havoc on the basepaths. The Nationals recalled him in late August, and Taylor finished the season with 14 stolen bases.
Taylor's statistical performance this spring suggests he could again break camp with the Major League club. He has a team-leading 11 hits in 26 at-bats (.423), ranks second behind Bryce Harper in total bases (19), is tied with Harper for the team lead in RBIs (6) and paces the club with four stolen bases through Saturday's game. Taylor did not start on Sunday against the Astros.
The 25-year-old jump-started Saturday's 6-0 win over the Mets in Port St. Lucie when he led off the game with a line-drive double over the head of Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and raced to third when Cespedes bobbled the ball for a fielding error. Taylor scored on a sacrifice fly by Chris Heisey to give the Nationals an early lead.
"He had to hustle on that double, or triple, which set the stage," Baker said of Taylor, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a stolen base. "He can do a lot of things."
Taylor has put up good stats in Spring Training before. He entered 2017 with a .353 batting average with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs over the past three springs. But those numbers have not carried over to the regular season, as his .228 BA and .281 OBP reveal.
"I think the last few years I've put a lot of pressure on myself worrying about things I can't control, so I'm trying to get back to just going out and having fun and playing the game," Taylor said.
Taylor said he's taking a more relaxed approach to the game this season, hoping it will translate into better production, particularly his on-base percentage.
"For me, I think it's more mental than anything else," Taylor said. "I've done a better job in Spring Training on coming out and just focusing on the task and not necessarily the result. Last year, and I can say it, I got into the season and I was worried about playing time and all these things that aren't good. I want to go out there and play the game hard and not worry about the results, just have fun really. Give it my best and see what happens from there."
Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com.