Like a lot of A’s fans I was excited when the club called up Michael Taylor from Sacramento last week. When you get right down to it Taylor is all Oakland has to show for trading Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Greg Smith to the Colorado Rockies for Matt Holliday in 2008.
I’m not convinced that Gonzalez would have fully blossomed into an offensive powerhouse in Oakland considering the fact that he’s posted home/road OPS splits of .943/.811, 1.161/.775 and 1.106/.757 in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in Colorado but it still hurts to see CarGo pounding the ball for the Rockies while the A’s offense usually sputters along.
If Taylor develops into a middle-of-the-order threat for the A’s that would take some of the sting out of the Holliday trade and his September callup seemed like the perfect time to get him regular at-bats as the team limps to the finish line in 2011.
Unfortunately, Taylor has only gotten four plate appearances since donning green and gold and it doesn’t look like manager Bob Melvin is inclined to pencil the kid into the lineup on a regular basis anytime soon.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle Melvin wants to ease the right-handed hitting outfield prospect into the big leagues by having him face left-handed pitchers so Taylor can get some good matchups to put him in position to have success.
Right off the bat that sounded disappointing to me. Checking Taylor’s 2011 stats at Sacramento made me cringe because he posted a paltry .699 OPS against left-handers compared to a solid .859 vs. right-handers.
From where I’m sitting, if Melvin wants to put Taylor in a position to succeed he should play to the strengths of a 2011 campaign that earned the prospect a ticket to the Major Leagues and basically use him every day against as many right-handed pitchers as possible.
If I’m Michael Taylor and I’m trying hard to make a good impression in my first taste of the big leagues after years of high expectations I’ve suddenly gone from being an everyday player who rakes right-handers to being forced into the short end of a platoon that exposes my greatest weakness this season.
That doesn’t seem like a recipe for success even though it’s far better than the opportunity Chris Carter got when he was called up earlier this season. Of course, Carter doesn’t do himself any favors by playing atrocious defense, meekly striking out a ton and generally looking like a deer in the headlights every time he timidly dips his feet into Major League waters.
I hope I’m wrong about Melvin’s initial plans for Taylor and this is part of a well-crafted organizational approach to breaking Taylor in. I’ll fully admit that the only split stats I could find for Taylor were from 2011 so maybe the A’s front office, with a few years of numbers to work with, is convinced that the kid is actually a lefty killer and this is the best way to use him early on.
But on the surface it seems like Melvin is just finding an excuse to play veterans David DeJesus and Ryan Sweeney down the stretch which is flat-out painful to wrap my head around. DeJesus is out of Oakland after this year with no notable draft pick coming back after his departure as a free agent and Sweeney is what he is — a very good all-around complimentary player. He doesn’t need additional playing time to drive that point home to anyone.
Melvin clearly wanted to take a similar approach when Brandon Allen was called up, announcing at the time that Conor Jackson was still the starting first baseman and he’d find some opportunities to get Allen into the lineup.
Luckily an injury to Jackson opened the door for Allen to get daily at-bats and he thrived. Now that Beane has sent CoJack to Boston Melvin has finally been robbed of the temptation to play Jackson every day.
I have all the respect in the world for DeJesus and Sweeney but they’re not a big part of Oakland’s future and at this point Taylor should be given every opportunity to settle in as an everyday player so the organization and fan base can see whether he’s part of the next great A’s team.
2011 stopped being about 2011 when the Texas Rangers swept Oakland heading into the All-Star Break. Building toward 2012 should be a priority which means getting Taylor into the lineup as much as possible.
I’m planning on taking a look at Taylor’s progress in a couple of weeks and hopefully he’ll have more than a dozen plate appearances by the time I get around to drafting that post.
Then again, if Taylor spends the next couple of weeks crushing lefties I’ll gladly eat a big plate of crow and tip my cap to Melvin for masterfully breaking the big kid into the majors.
I’m crossing my fingers that my gut reaction to Melvin’s grand plan for Taylor is proven wrong because Oakland desperately needs to develop a home-grown offensive core to compliment it’s outstanding young pitching staff.
The only way to really find out what Taylor can do is by playing him every day.