Results tagged ‘ Michael Taylor ’
While the Major League club continues to fight its uphill climb toward the fifth and final postseason spot in the National League, the Washington Nationals Minor League system has combined to compile quite a year. Four of the six stateside affiliates clinched postseason spots, with one already taking home its league title.
After cruising through the regular season, the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals swept through the postseason to claim the GCL Championship on Sunday.
The GCL Nats, who set a Minor League Baseball record for the best domestic regular-season winning percentage (49-9, .845), defeated the GCL Pirates in a one-game semifinal on Friday, 6-1, to reach the best-of-three championship. On Saturday, they snatched a 10-3, come-from-behind win over the GCL Red Sox at the Washington Nationals Training Complex in Viera, then followed that with a 7-2 win, in Game 2 on the road in Fort Myers to earn the title.
The pitching staff, which led the league in ERA, WHIP and shutouts this season, compiled a 1.67 ERA through the playoffs, led by righty Wander Suero and southpaw Hector Silvestre. Suero tossed five solid innings in the clincher, allowing just one run on one hit with seven strikeouts, while Silvestre shut down the Pirates in the semifinal with six shutout innings in which he allowed just one hit and struck out seven.
Offensively, the GCL Nats showed pop in all three playoff games, but impressively used an eight-run outburst in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the Championship Series to erase a 3-0 GCL Red Sox lead. Randy Encarnacion collected five hits, four runs scored and five RBI throughout the three-game postseason run, while Drew Ward added four hits, three runs and four RBI.
The Nationals have three other playoff-bound affiliates remaining, with the Low-A Hagerstown Suns, High-A Potomac Nationals and Double-A Harrisburg Senators and each headed for the postseason.
South Atlantic League First Half Northern Division Champion Hagerstown (80-57) will take on the West Virginia Power (Pirates) in a best-of-three series, where the Suns will have the home-field advantage for the final two games. The series opens Wednesday at 7:05 p.m., while the Augusta GreenJackets (Giants) and Savannah Sand Gnats (Mets) battle for the Southern Division title.
Two Hagerstown representatives earned SAL All-Star honors in second baseman Tony Renda and Manager Tripp Keister. Renda leads the league in games played (134), at-bats (517), doubles (43) and runs scored (99). Keister is in his first season with the Suns after helming the GCL Nationals last year. Both were also named as midseason All-Stars.
Potomac (84-55) claimed both first- and second-half Carolina League Northern Division titles and will face the Lynchburg Hillcats (Braves) in a best-of-three set starting Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. at Pfitzner Stadium. By virtue of winning both halves, the P-Nats will enjoy home-field advantage for all three games of the series, should a third game be necessary. The winner will take on either the Salem Red Sox or Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Rangers) in the best-of-five Mills Cup Championship Series.
Potomac righty reliever Robert Benincasa and outfielders Michael Taylor and Billy Burns were chosen as year-end Carolina League All-Stars. The trio ties the P-Nats with the Carolina Mudcats (Indians) for most representatives on the roster. Benincasa has registered 25 saves in 26 chances between Hagerstown and Potomac this season, logging a 3.54 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 28.0 innings since his promotion in June. Taylor leads the league in doubles (39) and extra-base hits (55) and has also fired 20 outfield assists this season. Burns, who was recently promoted to Harrisburg, led the Carolina league in batting average (.312) and steals (54) in 91 games.
Burns and Harrisburg (77-65) will face the Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs, as the Senators wrapped up their Western Division title with a 1-0 shutout Monday. They will play in a best-of-five set starting Wednesday, and the winner will advance to the Eastern League Championship series for another best-of-five showdown with either the Binghamton Mets or Trenton Thunder (Yankees).
The Senators feature a dynamic starting rotation, headlined by righthanders Nathan Karns and A.J. Cole, and rising lefty Robbie Ray. Karns, who made his Major League debut in May, went 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 132.2 innings this year for Harrisburg. Cole, acquired from Oakland prior to the season, had a terrific finish in Double-A after starting the season in Potomac. He went 4-2 in seven starts for the Senators, compiling a 2.18 ERA and 0.904 WHIP in 45.1 innings of work. The 21-year-old Ray capped off a breakthrough campaign with an 11-5 record across two levels, striking out a system-high 160 batters in 142 innings.
To catch all the Nationals Minor League postseason action streaming online, click here for gameday audio listings.
As you may have noticed, MLB.com released its Top 20 prospects for each team earlier this week as part of its MLB Pipeline debut. There should be a number of names familiar to many Nationals fans, as the Top 10 on the list closely parallels that of the Baseball America rankings filed just a few weeks ago. The BA rankings came out prior to Washington’s reacquisition of A.J. Cole, who would have (as we can figure out through deductive reasoning, by his appearance as the fourth and final Nationals prospect on the overall Top 100) ranked in the top five. As such, seven of the same players appear among the 10 on each list.
Here is the full list of MLB.com’s Top 20, complete with links for those to whom we have already showcased one way or another within the last calendar year.
4. A.J. Cole – RHP
7. Eury Perez – OF
8. Destin Hood – OF
9. Matt Purke – LHP
10. Robbie Ray – LHP
11. Matt Skole – INF
12. Chris Marrero – INF
13. Sammy Solis – LHP
16. Taylor Jordan – RHP
17. Brandon Miller – OF
18. Sandy Leon – C
19. Jason Martinson – INF
20. Kylin Turnbull – LHP
Keep your eyes peeled for plenty more prospect coverage as Curly W Live heads to Spring Training in just a couple more weeks!
Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day storylines, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.
After enjoying their lone off day of the spring, the Nationals headed back to the Grapefruit League home of the Mets, where they were greeted with a New York welcome. We listened to the pulse of the fans, and brought you a full report on up-and-comer Michael Taylor.
Back in Washington, Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner accepted a major award on behalf of the organization. Meanwhile, in Jupiter, Gio Gonzalez saw his sparkling start washed away and only his disappointing one counted against his stat line, but kept everything in perspective. When the Nationals traveled to Sarasota to face their Beltway rivals, we witnessed possible mascot cannibalism and had a celebrity sighting, but still no fortune for Washington.
After enduring an 11-game winless streak, manager Davey Johnson put the situation in context, but also showed his sense of humor. “I don’t want (our guys) peaking too early,” Johnson said, then quipped, “they’re not.”
The team finally broke out of its slump in a big way with a 12-0 thrashing of the Mets behind Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals hit three first-inning home runs, including one by Jayson Werth that hit a palm tree and landed in his own truck.
Record for the week: 1-5
When the Nationals entered camp in Viera this spring, there were few positions on the field that were yet to be decided. In fact, one could argue that the only truly open position was in center field. Sure, there has been discussion over the last rotation and bullpen spots, as there is with most every team every year, but center field seemed to be the one position for which fans and media-types alike couldn’t arrive at a definitive answer. Needless to say, though, it will not remain a question mark in the long term. In fact, with the recent assignment of Bryce Harper to Triple-A Syracuse with the specific task of playing in the middle of the outfield, the center field position might now be the deepest in the Nationals farm system. And whether Harper sticks in center or eventually shifts back to a corner outfield spot may depend less on him and more on another player many are talking about in the Nationals chain: Michael Taylor.
That may seem like an overstatement for a young man who has never played above Low-A and who won’t turn 21 until next Monday. But he has impressed enough both inside the organization and out to be placed fourth in Washington’s system in MLB.com’s most recent prospect rankings.
While Taylor’s career slash line through his first two seasons is just .240/.301/.400, that hides the progress he made in the second half of last year at Low-A Hagerstown, where he batted .291/.351/.498 after the break. At 6’2” and just 190 pounds, he is still quite slender, but has a projectable frame that coaches believe will fill out over the next few years, bringing more power along with it. If Taylor’s offense plays out according to plan, he could possess the full regiment of tools at one of the premiere defensive positions in the game.
Taylor was drafted as a shortstop, but the Nationals saw an athlete with great instincts and a solid arm that they believed could handle the premiere outfield defensive slot. Ironically, it was the defensive move that may have helped unlock Taylor’s offensive potential and allowed him to become the complete player the Nationals envisioned when they drafted him in the sixth round out of Ft. Lauderdale’s Westminster Academy in 2009.
“The move to the outfield freed him up a great deal offensively,” explains Doug Harris, the Nationals director of player development. “He’s a gifted defender, in part because of his athleticism, but he’s very instinctive as well. Physically, the sky is the limit for him.”
It is hard to imagine, though, that anyone saw that he would take to it as well as he has. Tony Tarasco, Washington’s Minor League hitting coordinator, saw him come to life in the instructional league last fall.
“I watched him go gap-to-gap his first day out there,” recalls Tarasco. “Of course his playing at shortstop helped him when he went to the outfield, because he could get rid of the ball quicker than a lot of other players. And he’s got a cannon arm, but he’s precise. He doesn’t miss the relay man often.”
Tarasco, who was has been very impressed with what he’s seen out of Taylor in his short time in the system, thinks that the change may have even occurred slightly earlier than when Harris saw it come about. He cites a change in attitude as a key factor in the young player’s development.
“He spent some time with Bob Boone in the cage,” recounts Tarasco. “Mike has always been a shy, quiet kid. He was so respectful that it made him almost timid. I think he left Boony with a little bit of aggression.”
Taylor himself recognizes that whatever his adjustments were, they required some work both with his physical and psychological approach. He is quiet, as Tarasco describes, and almost impossibly polite, and describes his progress earnestly.
“I think the work that I did on the physical side helped me relax more and I was able to be at ease in the box,” he explains of the work he did to improve his swing.
However, he goes on to describe the mental side of the adjustment as well, and in doing so, reveals that he is well beyond his years in terms of mental make-up. One of the words that you will hear the most around a professional baseball diamond is “consistency.” Those who can achieve it, who can ride out the slumps by simplifying the game to its individual pieces, are the ones that survive and move up.
“I really enjoy just having a routine,” explains Taylor, showing a keen understanding of that consistency. “That just keeps me focused on right here, on the field.”
According to Tarasco, for Taylor that means keeping a detailed black book of every at-bat, notes on every pitcher faced, for the entire season. Last year, that meant nearly 500 plate appearances, each tracked meticulously.
“I’ve seen guys start it,” says Tarasco of the exhaustive process. “But they get to July, then they don’t finish it. He was still doing it at the end of the year.”
It is that drive and approach, coupled with what Tarasco describes as a through-the-roof IQ, that he believes will help Taylor continue to progress in the years to come. For his part, Taylor is asking plenty of questions, trying to soak up as much as possible. He also appears to be listening, and not over-thinking when it comes to the larger picture.
“As long as I get my work in and stay focused on what I’m doing, everything else will kind of run its course and things will happen,” says the young outfielder.
In talking to Tarasco, it is easy to see where Taylor gets his approach to the game.
“Every single day, you wouldn’t know if he was 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, he continues to have that relentless attitude,” says Tarasco. “The willpower to move slowly, to go day-by-day, eventually is going to catapult him and spring him ahead.”
While there won’t be any rush to get Taylor to the big leagues, those in the Washington-area may have the chance to keep an especially close eye on him as he will likely make his 2012 debut at High-A Potomac in April.
Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday morning of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day storylines, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.
The Nationals snagged their first win of Spring Training at the home of the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Digital Domain Park. The ballpark was reminiscent of a little slice of New York, though it still featured its share of local flavor. The team went from there to Lake Buena Vista on Tuesday to match up with the Braves for the first time this Spring, again earning a victory. Mark DeRosa flashed good early signs of progress from the wrist injury that has hampered him the past two years and everyone enjoyed some old school, live musical entertainment at the ballpark.
On Wednesday, Carlos Maldonado hit a two-run, ninth-inning home run to force a 3-3 tie with the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Living legend Peter Gammons was on hand for the baseball anomaly and lent his thoughts on the 2012 Nationals. Single game tickets went on sale to the general public at 10am Thursday, as fans lined up outside the box office in D.C. Meanwhile, the Nationals played their best game of the Spring to date, shutting out the Houston Astros by a count of 8-0. Washington finally saw its unbeaten streak come to an end at four games with a 3-0 shutout at the hands of Miami on Friday. We paid a visit to Minor League camp and got some perspective from coaches and coordinators on a number of young prospects, including pitcher Alex Meyer.
Saturday brought the first split-squad action of the spring, as the Nationals won their home game over the Mets and rallied late for their second tie of the Grapefruit League schedule, against the Tigers in Lakeland. As one of the minor leaguers called up to fill out the roster for the New York game, Michael Taylor experienced the highs and lows of professional baseball in one trip around the bases. The weekend was capped by a rainout, as Gio Gonzalez’s four scoreless innings were wiped from the record books, leading us to make a Train pun that was too easy to pass up.
Record for the week: 4-1-2 (one rainout)
With the team traveling down the east coast of Florida to Melbourne for a 7:05pm start against the Miami Marlins, here at Curly W Live we thought it would be a good time to check in on the Nationals Minor League camp, to which all players reported this week.
When we showcased our first prospect of the year, Tyler Moore, a few weeks ago, we asked you who you would like to see us feature next. The voting was very close, with Destin Hood, Alex Meyer and Michael Taylor all receiving a near equal amount of votes. Since the interest is obviously there, we decided we might as well go ahead and talk to all three of them, as well as a couple other prospects you may not know about just yet. We’ll bring them all to you in our Down on the Farm series as we progress through Spring Training.
For now, though, let’s hold a quick tie-breaker poll to see who you would like us to feature today:
On our second day here in Viera, we snuck over to the minor league complex a few hundred yards north of Space Coast Stadium to catch up with some of the up-and-comers in camp. We spoke with pitchers Alex Meyer and Danny Rosenbaum as well as outfielders Michael Taylor and Destin Hood, then followed up with infielder Anthony Rendon in big league camp. We’ll be providing full prospect watch pieces (as we did with Tyler Moore) on each of them in the weeks and months to come, but in the meantime, we spoke with Rendon about what he’s learned his first couple days in camp.
For those unfamiliar with Rendon, he was the Nationals’ first-round pick last year’s First-Year Player Draft, going sixth overall. Many insiders considered the Rice University junior to have the best bat in the Draft, after he hit 26 home runs and drew 65 walks while striking out just 22 times in his sophomore season. The 21-year-old is experiencing his first Spring Training starting this week and soaking in the experience.
Curly W Live: It’s your first camp. How is it coming in and being a professional for the first time? Do you feel like a professional yet?
Anthony Rendon: Yeah, I guess so, I’m out of college (laughing). It’s a great experience down here, I wasn’t expecting this much, but everybody’s been pretty nice to me. I’ve had a lot of free time, but everything’s been scheduled out pretty good. I’m just happy to get into a routine.
CWL: Who were you most excited to meet and start working with?
AR: I was excited to meet everybody in the Nationals organization as a whole. If I’m going to be part of this organization for a long time, I’ve got to get used to everybody.
CWL: How much anticipation was there for you to get down here and start playing?
AR: I was really excited. I haven’t been playing for a long time. You know, the offseason really kills you. You start getting that itch, once you see the high school kids start to play, then the college kids start to play. You see your old teammates playing and you have to wait another week or so to start playing. So I was really excited to get down here and get started.
CWL: What are you looking to accomplish in your first professional season?
AR: I’m just trying to get used to everything, trying to get into a routine. I want to be out there every day, trying to be an everyday player throughout the whole season. I just want to play 130 games, or however many games I play. Because I know I’ve had a history of missing out, I want to try to leave that in the past and move forward.
CWL: Have any of the veterans tried to help you out at all?
AR: I talked to a couple of the guys, I told (Chad) Tracy and (Adam) LaRoche, “I need tips for the first Spring Training”. They told me to just stay quiet and be observant, just try to take everything in and not try to do too much. Take it easy, don’t try to go out there and showboat, just try to be the first guy out here and get used to it.
Stay tuned through the weekend, as we’ll have coverage of a very special event here at Space Coast Stadium. In advance of the second annual Wounded Warrior Amputee Celebrity Softball Classic (check out highlights from last year’s event here), following the Nationals-Red Sox exhibition game at Nationals Park on April 3, the team will join Nats at Spring Training. This Friday and Saturday the team will visit Space Coast Stadium in Viera to work out and meet with Nationals players in preparation for the Celebrity Softball Classic. More on that and everything else happening here at Nationals Spring Training coming up later this week.