Michael Taylor's bittersweet milestone

It's been an up and down career for outfielder Michael Taylor, who became a victim of expectations early in his tenure in the A's organization before leveling out with Triple-A Sacramento for the last four seasons. Sunday, he set a new River Cats franchise record that's emblematic of his dissatisfying career.

In the eighth inning of the River Cats' 20-4 thrashing of Colorado Springs Sunday in Sacramento, Michael Taylor crossed the plate for the 235th time setting the team's new all-time mark in runs scored. Runs scored is a stat a player has little control over. In that sense, it's a fitting record for Taylor given his standing with the organization.

Any player will tell you they loathe the idea of setting any minor league record and Taylor is certainly no different. The right fielder has become the an enigmatic figure within the Athletics' organization because of his inability to produce in the major leagues after arriving with high expectations. He was one of the remaining pieces of the Carlos Gonzalez and Matt Holliday series of trades in 2009.

In just 26 big-league games, Taylor has 10 hits in 81 plate appearances with just two extra base hits. But he does have a home run to his name. That came back in 2011, when he took Derek Holland of the Rangers deep September 20 with the A's well out of contention.

Taylor is the type of player that excels with consistent playing time, which he has never gotten with Oakland. But he has with the River Cats, amassing an 841 career OPS in Triple-A while playing the majority of his home games at Raley Field. This analysis from Ashley Marshall looking at minor league ballparks from 2008 through 2012 suggests the River Cats' home stadium is the toughest active park on hitters of any at the Triple-A level.

Why hasn't Taylor lived up to expectations? It could be because of the bar he set for himself in 2008 and 2009 in the Phillies' system.

In 132 games combined between Single-A Lakewood and Advanced-A Clearwater, the hulking outfielder hit .346/.412/.557 with 19 homers and 15 stolen bases.

Taylor backed that up putting up even better numbers the next season with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, registering a 944 OPS with 20 long balls and 21 stolen bases.

The Stanford alum was a 6'5", 255-pound dual threat with power, speed, a projectable throwing arm and the ability to get on base at clip better than .400 in his first two full seasons in professional ball.

At that point, Taylor was as sure-fire as they came. It was a good thing for Oakland, too. The A's needed something to make up for their failings with Holliday and Gonzalez.

But when the A's traded Brett Wallace for Taylor in a one-for-one deal, what they got didn't match up with what they saw.

In Taylor's first season with Sacramento, he hit an awfully pedestrian .272/.348/.392 with just six home runs. For whatever reason, he struggled making the transition to a new organization. He wore it and found ways to improve his numbers in each of the next four years while constantly making adjustments at the plate.

His 2010 OPS of 740 improved to 816 in 2011 and then 846 the next year, even after Oakland acquired Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes, virtually blocking any chance he had at a long-term future with club barring a catastrophic injury.

This year, with expectations by the wayside, Taylor has matured to a .306/.368/.522 hitter with eight home runs through 47 games (his slugging percentage is far and away his best mark since his days with the Phillies).

Now, top prospect Michael Choice is another player that could get in Taylor's way when it comes to the big leagues. Choice is a former first-round pick that's shown well throughout his career without Taylor's hiccups. He hits from the same side and is four years younger, although he isn't on the 40-man roster, yet.

Taylor is as introspective as any athlete and understands his situation fully, evident by any number of self-deprecating conversations heard around the batting cage at Raley. There's little doubt becoming Triple-A Sacramento's all-time leader in runs scored will be mentioned in those discussions.

But while Taylor hasn't panned out like the A's would have hoped to this point, he's remained a model citizen in a situation that would disgruntle many players in his position. His future in Oakland might be in question, but most opportunities in baseball are unexpected. He won't stop waiting on an opportunity with the A's or any other big league team.

Should Taylor be overjoyed about becoming the River Cats' all-time run scorer? Probably not. No player grew up wanting to be known for their longevity in the minors. But it's a record emblematic of consistency and production, two areas even major league players struggle in more than they don't.

As a stat, runs are inherently a product of circumstance, which says as much about Taylor's career in Oakland's organization as anything else.

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