Michael Taylor came into pro ball as a pretty highly touted prospect. The Phillies started him off at Low-A Williamsport, but his experience there didn't go quite as planned. The Stanford product struggled mightily at the plate and looked nothing like the offensive monster that the Phillies thought he would be upon his arrival in Williamsport. As with a lot of players, Taylor simply needed some time to adjust. He had battled a back injury and believes that the injury, which cut into his ability to work out as much as he would like, played a definite role in his struggles throughout his debut season. Still, Taylor didn't use the injury as an excuse and has been quick to point out that he simply needs to get better. That's one of the reasons why he quickly accepted an assignment to the Hawaii Baseball League this fall.
While playing in Hawaii, Taylor worked on all facets of his game. He believes that he has enough plate discipline and enough of an ability to put the bat on the ball that he can be a "one-to-one" guy. A player who only strikes out as much as he walks and no more. He accomplished the feat in Hawaii - 12 walks, 11 strikeouts - and looks to convert what he learned at the plate there into the regular season once that rolls around. In 2008, he dramatically improved his offensive numbers, but didn't come anywhere near his "one-to-one" goal, walking 50 times and striking out 89 times between stops at Lakewood and Clearwater. Still, his offense showed improvement, including cutting down on his strikeout rate, striking out once for every 5.5 at bats in 2008 as compared to once every 4.7 times in his first pro season. The nice part is that he also improved his power numbers to one home run for every 25.7 at bats instead of one every 38.8 at bats.
In Hawaii, Taylor spent much of his time working on things, which he wouldn't normally do during the regular season. Being surrounded by different coaches and facing talented prospects put him in a unique situation where he could work on improving his skills both at the plate and on defense. "I tried some different approaches in Hawaii, that I wouldn't try during the year, just trying to see if they're going to work," said Taylor of his approach to playing in Hawaii.
Defensively, Taylor needs to work on improving the routes that he takes to the ball and that begins with getting a good read on the ball when it comes off the bat. While he's not a speedster, Taylor has enough speed to get to a lot of balls that some outfielders won't, but he doesn't have enough speed to make up for mistakes that he makes either in getting a good read or in taking a bad route to the ball.
"There are a lot of adjustments to make when you're coming to pro ball," explained Taylor. "I've put a plan together for myself and as long as I stay healthy, I believe that I should be able to have some success."
Since the Phillies drafted him in the fifth round of the 2007 Draft, Taylor's life has been pretty much consumed by baseball. The only other thing that he's been able to fit in here and there is some work towards his degree in Political Science from Stanford. If the baseball gig doesn't work out - although it's very likely that it will - Taylor would pursue a career in foreign policy, possibly with an emphasis on the Middle East, an area of the world that's always interested him.
The Phillies split Taylor's season almost exactly down the middle in 2008 and since he had half a season at Clearwater and put up good numbers in his time there, it's going to be interesting to see where they place him in 2009. A promotion to Double-A Reading is a good possibility, but since Taylor doesn't even turn 23 until next month, they might give him just a little more seasoning at Clearwater before an in-season promotion. Generally, the Phillies challenge young players though, so it's unlikely that he'll get to enjoy the Florida sunshine once minor league camp breaks.