One day, Michael Taylor is playing in the Eastern League All-Star Game and thinking about how he can help the Reading Phillies win. The next, he's a 'Pig. An unexpected, but well deserved promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley caught Taylor a little by surprise, but he's quickly realizing that his focus needs to stay exactly the same now that he's just one step away from the majors. "I really didn't know what was going to happen," admitted Taylor. "I can't say I was shocked though. And after it sunk in a little, I just realized I need to focus on the same things and focus on being as good as I can and helping this team win."
Taylor really should have been in the annual Futures Game, but was one of those players overlooked for the honor. The snubbing didn't really bother him though, because he believes everyone gets their turn to shine, no matter what arena it's in. And, Taylor was able to shift his focus to the Eastern League All-Star Game, which was his reward for the numbers that he put up in the first half of the season with the Reading Phillies. Those numbers - 15-65-.333-.408 - certainly made him not only worthy of being in the Futures Game, but also made him worthy of moving along to Triple-A for the rest of the season.
It's going to be interesting to see how Taylor handles the move to the highest level of the minors. Last season, the Phillies moved Taylor from Lakewood to Clearwater in mid-June and he struggled with the promotion and was hitting just .215 a month after moving to Clearwater and that was an improvement over the nearly two weeks that he had spent with his average under the .200 mark for the Threshers. Of course, by the end of the season, Taylor was hitting .329 and had a respectable nine home runs at Clearwater. Surprisingly though, Taylor didn't struggle when he made the jump to Lakewood to start the 2008 season or when he moved to Reading to start the 2009 season.
"To be honest, I thought the jump from Low-A to High-A was more difficult than the jump to Double-A," explained Taylor. "I thought comparatively, the arms got much better from Low-A to High-A. Guys are more pitching savvy and mix in more breaking balls at Double-A and guys don't give in as much, but it seemed that as long as I had my plan, the arms didn't surprise me."
One thing that Taylor most enjoyed at Reading was playing for a team that was pretty good and had a good mix of players on the club. "What was really special about that team is that we had really good team chemistry. Everyone hung out together and it really seemed that at any given time, someone else could come up with a big hit or come up with a big pitching performance," said Taylor. "It really was something special to watch."
In preparing for the second-half of the Eastern League season, Taylor was focused on truly defining his game and removing any mistakes or flaws that he thought he may have. Now that he's in the International League, the focus is the same, because he knows everything is magnified. "Up here, mistakes stand out more. Guys know what they're doing, pitchers know what they're doing. I'm just going to have to cut down on the amount of mistakes that I make," believes Taylor, who admits he may have some adjustments to make. "I know there are going to be some growing pains, but I want there to be none. If I can just focus on eliminating mistakes, I'll definitely be a better baseball player."
While his average hasn't been impressive in the early going - he's hitting .200 (4-for-20) in six games - he did get his first Triple-A home run in just his third game with Lehigh Valley. "It was nice to get that out of the way. I had a single before that and that even felt good, just to get that first hit," explained Taylor.
For his part, IronPigs manager Dave Huppert is looking forward to seeing what Taylor can do for his club. "He's a special player. He's got all five tools and really isn't lacking anything that he needs to be successful," stated Huppert. "We're just going to put him in the lineup and let him figure things out. He may struggle a little, but it won't be long until he's hitting the ball well and doing what he did at Reading."
One potential distraction for Taylor has been dealing with trade rumors. Taylor is constantly mentioned as a key part of a package for a player that would put the Phillies over the top at the major league level at the expense of Taylor and others. Plus, Taylor has the added discussion of whether or not he's untouchable, whether he's the best prospect in the organization and how quickly he can be in the majors, whether it's in Philadelphia or elsewhere. Sometimes, players don't even admit to knowing about those rumors or they downplay them. In Taylor's case, he was the one that brought up the trade potential during our discussion.
"The past couple of weeks, the rumors of me moving - either up here [Lehigh Valley] or in a trade - have been intensifying," said Taylor. "There's new things everyday and it's flattering, but you can't believe a lot of it and you certainly can't let it affect how you play." Taylor views himself as a good player, who has a chance to be special, but he doesn't compare himself to other players. He also is smart enough to know that even if he is deemed untouchable today, that could change quickly either in the right deal or if he doesn't keep playing at a high level. "At the end of the day, I just concentrate on things that I can influence. It's [a trade] completely out of my control and what I try to do is stay focused on things that I can control and that's have quality at-bats and now, being at this level, try to make adjustments so I can have success here."
In Part Two of our discussion with Michael Taylor, he talks about life off the field and how he has dealt with diabetes since he was first diagnosed at age 10. It's an inside look at what a developing player goes through that not every fan even knows is an issue for him.