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Taylor gets a day off, but has benefited from playing time

Sep 18, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT

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Michael Taylor was kept out of the Nationals’ lineup Friday night, not because his swollen right knee was preventing him from playing, but because manager Matt Williams had been looking to give the young center fielder a day off and felt the time was right.

With the Nationals scheduled to face a pair of Marlins left-handers — Justin Nicolino and Brad Hand — the rest of the weekend, Williams wanted to make sure Taylor got a day off now, giving him a chance to return for those more-favorable matchups.

“He’s played a lot,” Williams said. “We’ll just give him a day today and then [he’ll face] a couple of lefties the next two days.”

Taylor indeed has played a lot this season, far more than the Nationals originally planned. The 24-year-old would have been pegged to open the season as the starting center fielder at Class AAA Syracuse, but when Denard Span was sidelined by a variety of injuries, Taylor found himself staying in the big leagues the entire year.

He heads into the final two weeks of the season having played in 124 games, totaling 460 plate appearances (fourth-most on the roster).

Taylor’s production has dropped off some as the season has progressed: He’s hitting just .172 with a .479 OPS over his last 17 games, striking out 20 times. “I think he’s venturing out of the strike zone a little more than he has been,” Williams said.

The physical grind of a full season can take a toll on a young player, but Williams believes that’s less of a concern than the other challenge players like Taylor face near the end of their first full big-league campaign.

“I think when you’re young, you don’t really feel it physically,” he said. “The mental grind of the whole thing is something guys aren’t used to, unless you’ve been through it. Once you get through it, then you understand it. But I know Mikey, in particular, has embraced the opportunity and taken advantage of it. He’s played pretty well.”

Taylor currently owns a .234 batting average, .283 on-base percentage and .658 OPS, but his 14 homers rank seventh among NL rookies while his 61 RBI rank third.

There were plenty of questions about Taylor entering this season, with club officials needing to find out whether he would be ready to take over for Span in 2016. The Nationals appear pleased with what they’ve learned.

“I think he’s answered it,” Williams said. “I really do. I think he’s answered the question. He’s been productive. His average with runners in scoring position (.330) is really good. He’s showing the ability to cut the swing down in those situations, in particular. Hit a few homers. Stole a few bases. Played great in center field. I think that on-the-job training has been good for him. It certainly wasn’t the plan going in, but it’ll be good for him in the long run.”

  1. senators5 - Sep 18, 2015 at 10:17 PM

    This young man is clearly the poster child every cliche in the book denoting extremes from top to bottom. One AB he looks like the second coming, the next he has no clue and looks totally baffled as the ball sails down the middle of the plate. MW is hairless and clearly clueless as to how to get this fellow on the road to consistency. Unfortunately, I am not sure that will ever happen because while he clearly has baseball skills I am just not sold that he is or ever will be a ballplayer.

    • jfmii - Sep 19, 2015 at 12:15 PM

      Taylor’s inconsistency is Williams’ fault?

      • senators5 - Sep 19, 2015 at 4:29 PM

        Absolutely not and that is the dilemma facing any manager with clearly talented players ie: Ian Desmond, who simply at times dives right off the edge. My point is only the player can make the changes necessary especially when they are mental. When healthy, RZ can, MAT, I am not so sure.

    • jfmii - Sep 19, 2015 at 12:17 PM

      And such a negative assessment of MAT’s potential. Hope you are wrong

    • jeffreycbullock - Sep 22, 2015 at 8:36 AM

      I think Taylor shows some promise and maybe he will be a god player one day and I’ve seen Zimmerman chase stuff just as bad as Taylor, pitches I wouldn’t expect a 10 year vet to go after. You also have to remember that there is a different offensive atmosphere in the game now as opposed to 10 years ago – we need to plug Taylor’s 2015 stats into the time machine and go back to 2005.

  2. Drew - Sep 19, 2015 at 10:24 AM

    I think he’s a ballplayer and he seems like a nice kid. I hope he will take a cue from the selectiveness that led to Harper’s superlative season.

    If Taylor can learn to lay off bad pitches and take walks, his offensive game will reach another level.

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