In the Kansas City Royals' 8-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night, outfielder Michael A. Taylor was one of the game's biggest standouts. In addition to manning his normal center field spot, the 30-year-old went 2-for-4 at the plate and drove in a pair of runs. It was one of his better outings of the year.
Not only did Taylor clobber a third-inning double that scored Adalberto Mondesi but later in the game, he hit a solo shot that distanced the Royals from the Mariners and helped secure the win. After the game, Taylor was asked about his display of power and what may have led to such an impressive game. He alluded to working with team trainers to assess his strengths and weaknesses, then take a slightly different approach at the plate thereafter.
"I normally think right-center or right field and in the last two or three weeks, I've tried to move my sights over a little bit more towards the middle of the field," Taylor said. "I feel like it's helped me get to some more pitches maybe inside a little bit . . . looking at some of my hot and cold zones just lets me know the areas I need to work on. I felt like I was doing that work in the cage but then in the game, still not getting to those pitches. So that was a natural progression to try and work on my mechanics and then my approach and see if I can shore up some of those areas."
After going 3-for-4 on Sept. 3 against the White Sox, Taylor went 0-for-4 in consecutive contests. In eight games since then, though, he's gone hitless just once and gotten on base in all eight contests. Over that span, which included a brief stint on the Family Medical Emergency List, Taylor is sporting a .290 batting average and an OPS of .785. He's also recorded a pair of walks during that stretch. His hard-hit chart backs up his reasoning for some recent tweaks.
It isn't like making contact on inside pitches presents a glaring hole in Taylor's game but clearly, he connects better on balls on the outer third of the plate. From his right-handed stance, this allows him a bit more time to square up and drive the baseball. The changes to his approach were made not only in an effort to have him aim more towards center field, but also to give him a better chance to turn and burn on balls thrown inside.
Taylor, who is a free agent after this season, is a terrific defender. There's no denying that — the issue lies with his bat. While it's far from unplayable, it's also a below-average part of his game that includes a hefty serving of strikeouts. Although it's unlikely that he drastically improves his performance at the plate now, he's self-aware of what he can to do become a more well-rounded hitter. Over the past few weeks, the returns have been positive.