The KC Royals’ new center fielder fields better than he hits. Will he platoon?
Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2021. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up today is outfielder Michael A. Taylor.
New KC Royals center fielder Michael A. Taylor owns a World Series ring, the reward for playing for the Washington Nationals when they won the 2019 Fall Classic.
Taylor also owns an excellent glove and good speed. He’s a plus defender whose range took center stage in the first inning of the Royals’ Monday exhibition game against Cleveland when he raced down Eddie Rosario’s long fly, then spun and threw out Cesar Hernandez, who was trying to get back to first base.
What Taylor doesn’t own, but the Royals are banking on him acquiring soon, is a good bat.
Taylor is a career .237 hitter and hit .196 in 38 games for the Nationals last season. He’s done his best hitting in the postseason—he batted .333 in Washington’s championship year postseason, and hit home runs in the NLCS and World Series. He clubbed two homers in the 2017 NLDS, including a grand slam.
But hitting is a notoriously “what have you done for me lately” proposition, and being good with the bat in the playoffs doesn’t matter unless you get there. The Royals are at least a season away from October baseball, so they need Taylor to hit now. His subpar career average and seven-year .291 OBP suggest that could be an issue; Taylor’s average equaled or exceeded .250 only twice with the Nats—.271 in 2017, and .250 in 2019. His .196 last season is his worst, with 2014’s .205 a close second.
Major league clubs need their outfielders to hit. Taylor generally falls short. So what will his first Kansas City campaign bring?
Baseball Reference and FanGraphs projections for Taylor’s KC Royals season
Baseball Reference and FanGraphs are remarkably similar in their projections for Taylor. Both clearly consider him a part-time player which, if accurate, means the KC Royals could have a serious problem in center.
Baseball Reference predicts only 343 plate appearances, nine home runs, 34 RBIs and a .226/.295/.377 line for Taylor, while FanGraphs (Depth Charts version) projects 350 PA, 10 homers, 39 RBIs, and .230/.287/.393 slash.
What kind of 2021 season will Taylor actually have for the KC Royals?
Taylor won’t win a Silver Slugger this season, hit .300, or lead even the club in any key offensive category. But the confidence sure to come from being the presumptive starting center fielder on an up-and-coming team may well help him at the plate. He’ll probably hit low in the order, where the pressure is less, which certainly won’t hurt his outlook at the plate. Look for Taylor to approach .250 again, and maybe .255-.260 if he can take advantage of Kauffman Stadium’s generous outfield gaps; 10 homers isn’t an unreasonable expectation for the player who hit 19 in 2017.
And he’ll play regularly. It’s now clear the Royals didn’t sign him to play just part of the time. And they’ve shown, with Nicky Lopez in particular, that they can swallow hard and tolerate a soft bat when its owner possesses an excellent glove. Especially up the middle where it counts so much.
Michael A. Taylor will be in center field Opening Day. He may not knock the fences down, but he’ll play a lot.