For Michael Taylor, it's all about patience and adjustments. The 23 year old outfielder is in his first season in the Double-A Eastern League and has had to make adjustments to a more demanding style of pro ball. What he's found in the early going is that there are always things to learn.
"I look to learn from everybody," said Taylor. "I learn from other players and watch how they handle situations and talk to the coaches about how to do things differently. It's [learning the game of baseball] really an on-going process."
So far, so good on the results for Taylor. After an impressive April, Taylor was awarded Phillies Player of the Month honors from both Philly Baseball News and the Phillies organization. His first month at Double-A made one of baseball's toughest jumps look relatively easy when he hit .338 and led the Reading Phillies in both home runs and RBI for the month. Word on how to pitch Taylor has obviously gotten around though, because in May, he's hitting just .200 and his season average is now sitting at an even .300 through 27 games. Taylor learned early on that pitchers who are good enough to pitch in Double-A ball are good enough to mix their pitches and locate the ball more than pitchers at the lower levels. He's also learning that they will adjust to situations, just as he has to do.
"Pitchers here [Eastern League] can throw more strikes and they have more pitches that they can throw for strikes. At the lower levels, you could sit on a pitch more than you can here, so you have to be able to adjust to what the pitcher is trying to do," explained Taylor.
Even after having success last season at both Lakewood and Clearwater and now finding some success at Reading, Taylor has some holes in his game that he is determined to close and he's got a plan for improving. "I want to make every at-bat a quality at-bat," said Taylor. "I think each time that I head to the plate that I've got an opportunity to do something, whether it's just get on base, move a guy over or drive in runs, there is always something that you can do to help your club."
When you break down the stats, you can't ask Taylor to do much more when it comes to operating with runners on base. Taylor has hit .357 with runners on base this season and ups that to .385 with runners on and two outs. With runners in scoring position, he hits a lofty .409 and is two-for-two with the bases loaded this season. Of course, he doesn't do badly when he leads off an inning, hitting .385 when it comes to getting things started.
"That's what I mean," said Taylor. "You can always do something to help your club, if it's just starting off an inning by getting on base or coming through in a key spot, you always need to strive to have a quality at-bat."
Defensively, Taylor had 18 outfield assists last season, thanks to a strong arm. Since he's already got the powerful arm, knows how to set himself to throw out runners and commits very few errors, you might think that Taylor's defense isn't anything that he needs to continue working on, but you would be wrong. "I'm working on making better reads and taking better routes to the ball," said Taylor of his defense.
Aside from raw skills, it's always nice to stumble across a player who knows his limitations. Taylor has always been regarded as a good baserunner, who had the potential to steal bases, but Taylor knows he's not going to have too much success with stealing bases and prefers to pick his spots. Again, it's all a part of helping his team and stealing bases is something that Taylor does pay very close attention to. "The official stats say I had 15 [stolen bases] last season, but it was actually 16," laughed Taylor. "One never got counted."
"I won't ever steal more than 15 or 16 bases though, I think that's going to be about normal for me," said Taylor. "I can steal a base here and there, so I just pick my spots and look to be successful in those spots rather than just look to run."
While he's off to a good start to the 2009 season, Taylor isn't allowing himself to look too far ahead. He admits that he's not sure whether he'll spend the entire season at Double-A or move along to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but whatever happens, he's going to continue to be patient and just keep getting better. "In some ways, I think it would make sense to keep me here [at Reading] all season," admits Taylor. "There's a lot to learn and I've already picked up a lot here. Plus, we've got a pretty good team and I wouldn't mind getting a chance to keep playing with these guys and see what we can do."
Michael Taylor's career stats
*2009 stats through May 11th.