Michael Taylor Vaults into Sleeperdom

When injury strikes, opportunity arises. This time, Michael Taylor is the beneficiary. Initially expected to step in for Jayson Werth as he recovers from right shoulder surgery, Taylor is suddenly set to enjoy more guaranteed playing time in the wake of Denard Span’s expected absence. Yesterday, Span underwent core muscle surgery, which figures to sideline him for at least four to six weeks. That means that Taylor will now fill in at center field, possibly for the entire first month of the season.

Sticking with the playing time potential theme, Taylor isn’t going to necessarily experience a sharp decline in plate appearances once Span does return. Werth is going to be 36 years old this season and is recovering from that aforementioned shoulder surgery, so he’s no sure thing to remain healthy all year. Then of course, there’s Bryce Harper, who has battled various ailments since his 2012 rookie year, and has seen his plate appearance totals dwindle each season. So there’s a real chance that Taylor can accumulate 400-450 at-bats this season.

Now that we’ve discussed his playing time upside, it’s time for the equally important performance analysis. But before diving in, I would like to share with you a word of caution. Taylor turns 24 later this month, so he’s actually older than Harper. And yet, he’s recorded all of 52 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. It’s a concern, because it’s seemingly much more difficult for a hitter to make a successful jump to the Majors with little to no Triple-A experience than it is for a pitcher.

Taylor’s biggest bugaboo at the plate is his strikeout rate. He has struck out at least 20% of the time at every minor league stop, including a massive 29.5% of the time at Double-A in 2014. That’s a big red flag. You assume that translating that mark to the Majors would yield something in the 30% range, which ZiPS actually projects. Even if he manages to post an inflated BABIP, it’s going to be mighty difficult for him to avoid sapping your team’s batting average. So that’s the negative, and it’s a big one.

But aside from that gigantic wart, the rest of his game is quite exciting. He offers that intriguing blend of power and speed that fantasy owners salivate over. He hasn’t displayed massive power in the minors given his .172 career ISO there, but it’s certainly high enough to expect a positive contribution in home runs. His career minor league HR/FB rate sat at 10%, but he enjoyed a power spike in 2014, fueled by a 21.5% HR/FB rate.

His respectable power isn’t his most promising fantasy-related skill though. That would be his speed. He swiped 37 bases (to just 9 caughts, for an 80% success rate) in 2014, which followed 51 steals in 2013. His triples totals and Spd scores suggest that he’s not exactly a blazer on the bases, but merely well above average, so it might be wise to expect his stolen base attempts to decline in the majors.

Both Steamer and ZiPS project greater than 10 homers and 20 steals extrapolated over a full season. My Pod Projections are on board with that as well, though think he has a bit more power upside than the two systems are projecting. It’s true that his projected batting average ain’t pretty, but if he could fill up the rest of the stat sheet, he should be able to carve out some mixed league value while he’s starting, and maintain NL-Only value even as a reserve.





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Kman
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Kman

It seems there are a lot of players of this ilk this year: Taylor, Steven Souza, joc pederson, arismendy alcantara. Not sure what to make of that but if this is your kind of player there are certainly a bunch to choose from

Rico
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Rico

Any chance Kobernus makes the Nats opening day roster and sees some of that outfield time?

Anton Sirius
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Tyler Moore is out of options, so he’s more likely to win that last bench spot than Kobernus. They’ve got Frandsen to be their jack-of-all-trades bench guy.

Rufus T. Firefly
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Member
Rufus T. Firefly

Wonder where Taylor ranks compared to Pederson and Souza….?

fothead
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fothead

Add Pompey & AJ Pollock to that. Juan Lagares maybe to a lesser extent too. Seems like a new breed of young player, fast, moderate power, struggles with consistent contact.

I’ve been really intrigued with this ilk of player myself this year. Seems like since there’s so many, one of the mentioned will bust out and go 20/20. Kinda has to, right? I’ll be trying to get two of that class on each of my teams because the potential for HUGE profit looms IMO. Alcantra’s versatility is very interesting too.

In my uneducated, unprofessional opinion, gotta think Souza is the best bet. HE’s the most assured of AB’s and may end up hitting somewhere in the 3-5 slots for Tampa. Biggest issue for the others, to me, would be lineup spot.