There’s a logjam in the Nationals outfield and it could get more complicated next year with minor league center fielder Michael A. Taylor playing like he’s ready for a big league shot.
“That is kind of down the road right now,” said Taylor, 23, who has played this year for Double-A Harrisburg. “I am focused on finishing strong and working on the things I have been working on and see what happens next year.”
Six Nationals players have played more than 10 games in the outfield this year, including longtime third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
Prior to his return from the disabled list on June 30, Bryce Harper said he hit better when he played center field — which appeared to catch regular center fielder Denard Span off guard. Harper has stayed in left with Span in center and Zimmerman back at third. But Taylor could be part of the outfield options for the Nationals in the future.
Scouts consider Taylor one of the top defensive outfielders in the minor leagues, and an American League scout compared him to the late Paul Blair, a Gold Glove center fielder for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1960s and ’70s.
Taylor appeared in the Futures Game, for top minor league prospects, on July 13 in Minnesota and was the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter for the Western Division in the Eastern League All-Star game three days later in Altoona, Pa.
“We had so many guys [at the Futures Game] that are very talented and will be in the big leagues soon,” Taylor said while in Altoona, where he had an RBI single and threw out a runner at third. “Hopefully [one day] I will be in a big league clubhouse and we can talk about when we were 22 and 23 and playing in the Futures Games.”
Drafted as a shortstop out of a Florida high school by the Nationals in 2009, Taylor has shown off his versatility — though some scouts worry about his high strikeout totals. Entering Monday, he was hitting .318 with 20 homers, 16 doubles and 57 RBIs and had an OPS of .938 in 91 games at Harrisburg. He had 27 steals in 35 tries but had struck out 124 times in 358 at-bats with 43 walks.
“He is a very quiet and reserved person,” said Harrisburg hitting coach Mark Harris. “But he is an intense competitor and wants to get better.”
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