Phillies Take Taylor in Fifth Round

Yesterday morning Stanford junior outfielder Michael Taylor told us that he expected to be taken between the fourth and sixth rounds in the MLB Draft. He also shared three clubs for whom he traveled to work out in the past week. The 6'6" 260-pound power hitter proved prophetic yesterday when he was taken by one of those teams, the Phillies, in round five. He talked with us shortly thereafer.

Michael, it's timely I guess that we talked earlier about your trips.  You said the first one on Friday brought you to Philadelphia.  Six days later they drafted you.  Can you tell me a little bit more about what was going on between you and the Philadelphia Phillies?

"I think that they showed a lot of interest.  They were interested in my future power potential, especially in that ballpark, sort of along the same lines as Ryan Howard.  That's what they talked about.  It's kind of funny.  This whole draft process that me and my advisor talked about how the same things they're saying about me, they said about Ryan Howard.  Low and behold, I went to the Phillies in the fifth round just like Howard did [in 2001].  It's kind of ironic.  They're sort of thinking the same thing, and that would be fantastic for me as well.  I'm pretty excited because they're very interested, and I think they really believe in me and in my ability to become a Major League player for their organization.  I'm pretty excited about it."

You said that going out to Philadelphia to workout had something to do with their interest, but I know you also wanted to show them some things.  Can you report a little bit on what you did at that workout that you think may have gone really well for you?

"First off, a lot of I think underestimate my athleticism.  They wanted me to come out and run a 60.  In high school, I was a 6.7 guy, but I've now put on 30 or 35 pounds since high school.  People are interested in how fast I still was.  I went out there and ran two 6.8's, and I think that boded well for me.  Also just being able to be in front of them wearing my clothes.  The Stanford uniform kind of fits me awkwardly, and I don't think it represents me athletically as well as it could.  So I was getting to showcase my athletic presence a little bit.  I threw well.  I swung the bat well and showed some power in BP at their ballpark.  I was able to hit some balls out, to all fields.  I got to talk to their people - their hitting instructor and their GM - just to get to know them a little bit closer.  That kind of sold them on whether I'm the kind of person who can eventually make their big league club.  I was pretty excited about it, and I think it went well all the way around.  It was a very close encounter, and we were able to accomplish some of the things that I think teams look for when they're trying to draft players and figure out guys in my situation.  It was good.  All the way around, it went well."

I assume that you're having to go there and show them all of that means that none of the people higher up in their scouting organization were able to see you during this tear you had the final four or five weeks of the season?

"That is exactly what happened.  Obviously their area guy had seen it.  They are like a lot of teams in this draft, with a lot of mixed feelings among different people depending on when they saw me.  I think they had that guy, their West Coast guy and a couple fact-checkers see me, but their GM and scouting director and maybe some other checks might have seen me earlier in the year and had some mixed reports on exactly where I fell.  They were interested enough to want to see me up close and personal and talk to me and get to know me a little bit better.  I think that is where most of the general interest came from those clubs I went to work out with.  That's why I decided it was worth it to make the trip, and obviously it paid off."

Speaking of people seeing you at different times of the year, you really were a different player at different times.  Can you help explain or describe for us the Michael Taylor of the first two-thirds of the season?  And what enabled and transformed to the Michael Taylor of those final 19 games?

"More than anything, I've always been a strong finisher.  If you kind of mapped out my entire career - through high school, through AAU, through college and through my summer league games - I've been a bit of a slow starter.  That's part of it.  Continuing to make adjustments and work hard is also part of it.  When you keep plugging away, I'm one of those people who once you make adjustments, you get a little bit better.  I did that this year and had that little tear at the end of the year.  I started off slow and then started playing better.  I wasn't getting many hits, but I felt like I was swinging the bat better.  That just continued to build until hits came, and then everything rolled.  I just think it was a slow, steady building process.  I don't think all of it plays out in my numbers.  I think you see the final result in the last 20 games and say, 'Oh it was a huge, immediate transformation.'  But really it was a building process throughout the year, that just ended up with the results being there toward the end."

What do you think were some of the most important adjustments you made that led to that later success?

"I think it was a little bit more aggressiveness and a little more natural ability at the plate - sort of allowing that to cut loose at times.  When you come into a season like this, with a lot of things at stake, you tend to maybe overthink your at-bats.  You tend to overthink your games or your personal performance.  Sometimes it can stymie your abilities a little bit.  I think I just got to a point where I was being a little more natural with it and enjoy playing the game.  That's when I think things started to free up and started to feel right again.  I think that was the beginning of my 'transformation.'  That's what I would point to the most, just relaxing and just trying to be the player that I knew I could be.  Not trying as hard and just letting it happen."

I think we have all thought of you as a tremendous power hitter and that you've had that capability, but the numbers are striking.  You hit six home runs in May alone, and that's more than you had hit in an entire season either as a freshman or sophomore.  You only hit six home runs the first three-quarters of this season.  What unlocked the power in particular, and how do you think you're going to carry that forward now the rest of your baseball career?

"As I move forward, I'm going to have to continue to make adjustments because the pitching is going to get better.  I think I had the power more this year than any other year, and I think it's just being free.  It's really hard to get balls in the air on a consistent basis, and that's really what it's about - getting yourself a lot of opportunities.  If you catch balls in the air, they're going to go out of the ballpark.  I think my first two years, I was accustomed to hitting the balls hard, but it was difficult for me to get them airborne.  That was a little bit my approach and my mindset, but when I'm a little bit more free and a little bit more aggressive, I get balls in the air with more frequency.  With my ability and my natural strength level, when that goes through and things feel right, those balls go out of the ballpark.  I think it really started to feel right to me the second half of the year and down the home stretch.  You started to see those home run numbers, that people had been expecting for a long time, come out."

What's your expectation of what happens next?  I know that you were just drafted in the last hour, but have you talked with Philadelphia yet?

"Their area scout called me and congratulated me.  I think he was a big fan of mine.  As far as money expectations or where I'm going, I have no idea.  I haven't talked to anyone higher in the organization yet.  I think they understand that I have finals tomorrow.  I'm going to be doing a lot of things like that, but we'll definitely be talking over the next couple days to hammer out the details.  I don't think it will be a big deal.  I'm pretty sure if I look it up online, the slot is going to be somewhere in the low six figures, and I'm sure that's going to be fine.  I'm pretty excited."

So your expectation is that you've found a club and they've found you, where you guys can move forward?

"Yeah, definitely."

What's your graduation track right now?

"I'll be done next fall - just one quarter away."

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