Not much went right for Michael Taylor last season. After the Phillies made Taylor a fifth-round pick out of Stanford, the left fielder proceeded to hit .227/.300/.365 in in 261 plate appearances for Williamsport in the short-season New York-Penn League. Taylor, 22, lacks nothing in terms of pure size, as his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame helps him generate plus-plus raw power. Despite his college pedigree, Taylor remained a relatively raw prospect, though that certainly hasn’t prevented the Phillies from gambling on other raw, toolsy players in the draft.
The Phillies began Taylor with low Class A Lakewood this year, and he lit up the league: .361/.441/.554 in 249 at-bats and a trip to the South Atlantic League all-star game. Upon a promotion to high Class A Clearwater in mid-June, Taylor struggled to keep his OPS above .600 for the first month he was with the Threshers. But Taylor adjusted, including a nine-game hitting streak that began in late June in which he had five multi-hit games, bringing his season Florida State League numbers to .276/.331/.404 in 156 at-bats.
Baseball America: You got off to a great start this year. Were there any adjustments you made this season after getting your first taste of pro ball last year?
MT: I’ve been pretty consistent in saying that I learned a lot from last year in terms of getting 230 professional at-bats in, and that’s obviously a big part of it. Also just continuing to just make strides as a player. One of my goals more than anything is just to try to get a little bit better in some aspect of my game. So as a hitter, as a defender as a baserunner, just trying to learn something and do the things that I know will help me progress in the long run. How quickly that comes or how much time that takes just depends on the player and depends on a lot of different factors. Another thing is I’m fully healthy this year, which is fantastic. Last year I had a lot of back problems, which inhibited me from putting in the work I needed to put in to be as consistent as I could be. It was very nagging, it was very frustrating, but at the same time I knew I wanted to play and get those experiences because I knew I had the whole off-season to go in and make chances and corrections and do things I needed to do to get better.
BA: Is more of that development done during game situations or in BP and off the field?
MT: It’s really both. A lot of hitters talk about getting in the cage and hitting off the tee first, and making the swing adjustments and getting the approach that will be successful in BP, and then BP taking it to the game. And that’s really where I started, whether it’s in my backyard or in the Stanford cages off the tee, working, trying to figure things out, being frustrated some days, encouraged others, from there to batting practice and from batting practice to spring training, where I finally got to see live pitching. It’s been a process and it’s been a process more than just last year—it’s been a five, six, seven-year process. I’m not saying this is coming to any kind of fruition right now, but I’m starting to see some strides in a positive direction, so it’s exciting.
BA: After your early success, have you noticed a difference in how pitchers are attacking you?
MT: It’s definitely getting tougher. To be honest with you, I’m not really seeing those first-pitch cookies any more, those 2-0 cookies that you see early on in the season. You come in and you do well, you make an adjustment and the league makes an adjustment to you.
BA: What kind of approach do you like to take to the plate for every at-bat?
MT: I try to have a plan for every single at-bat for every single pitch. I’m not saying it always works out, but I feel like the less at-bats I give away over the course of a 500 AB season, if I give away 50, I may not scrape out 15, 20 more hits, and that’s the difference between hitting .275 and .300. For me, I try to go up there, take every pitch, have my plan—and I know we’re not supposed to be stepping out—but just to clear my head, take what happened and just get my new plan for that next pitch. If I do that, I feel that I have a chance to be successful with my approach.
BA: Does your approach or the pitch you’re looking for vary based on different scenarios?
MT: It depends on the situation. Some organizations preach, ‘Guy on third base, less than two outs, they’re going to come with the breaking ball or the changeup. I know that, I’ve experienced that before. But I’d say 90 percent of the time, to be successful at any level of baseball you have to be fastball efficient. So you go up there looking for the fastball that you can handle.