Bill Conlin: Phillies prospect Michael Taylor a heavyweight five-tooler

Reading outfielder Michael Taylor is posting big numbers with his bat, legs and throwing arm.
Reading outfielder Michael Taylor is posting big numbers with his bat, legs and throwing arm.
Posted: June 19, 2009

JUST SAY NO, RUBEN. Be firm and resolute. Look to the near future even when the present appears to call for swift and decisive action.

Just build a moat around Michael Taylor. Put him off-limits. Declare him a future Philly landmark. Buy him a size XXX-long T-shirt that reads "Untouchable" in front and "Off Limits" in back.

Don't ruin my Twin Towers dream.

Don't break up potential belting bookends Michael Taylor and Ryan Howard before they have gone back-to-back for the first of what should be many times.

The surprise placing of Raul Ibanez on the 15-day disabled list with a groin injury in the wake of a suspicious "new-shoe" Achilles' heel problem - nice try, Charlie - should be a wake-up call. It should remind general manager Ruben Amaro that bleep can come flying out of the blue to happen at the worst possible time. This late-breaking bulletin: 37-year-old ballplayers do tweak body parts vital to performance - even those who sleep in hyperbaric oxygen chambers and are fitter than Jack LaLanne.

Interestingly, Stanford man Amaro had Stanford men John Mayberry Jr. and Michael Taylor to choose from as Raul's replacement in Charlie Manuel's strong but shallow outfield. OK, if you want to count Greg Dobbs and Eric Bruntlett, the Phillies' only infield reserves as outfield options, just remember your king is in check with limited moves.

Mayberry got the recall even though Taylor is an Eastern League MVP candidate at Reading and the man he replaced in the outfield at Palo Alto was scuffling up the road at Triple A Lehigh Valley. Calling up Taylor, who is Top 5 in just about every EL offensive category, would have started the dreaded service-time clock, a timepiece that can cost more than a beachfront home in Avalon by the time the arbitration meter kicks in.

My assessment did not stop Mayberry from pounding a single and homer in yesterday's slump-extending, 8-7 loss to the broom-wielding Toronto Blue Jays. But the rightfielder helped give his run back when Scott Rolen legged a single into a double after noticing John's casual pursuit of the ball. Later, he gunned down a run at the plate with a fine throw. Maybe Ruben should call up John on alternate days. The last time they summoned him as an interleague-play DH, he clubbed a three-run Yankee Stadium homer in his big-league debut.

But the numbers are the numbers . . .

Mayberry was batting .257 for the IronPigs with eight homers, 31 RBI and a .470 slugging percentage. He had struck out 56 times in 183 at-bats. Taylor is batting .333 with 10 homers, 42 RBI and a .562 SP. He has struck out just 33 times in 219 ABs. Mayberry, a plus runner, had four steals. Taylor, also a plus runner, has 10 steals. Last year, playing at two Class A levels, Michael had 15. He also is second in the Eastern League with four triples.

That's a lot of running for a corner outfielder with small-forward height, 6-6, and power-forward bulk, 250. (Down from 260.)

Unlike Ryan Howard, a one-tool player whose one tool is a WPD - weapon of pitch destruction - Michael Taylor is a rare heavyweight five-tooler, a baseball Lennox Lewis. He was taken in the fifth round of the 2007 draft as something of a project. Considered a choice prospect at Florida's Apopka High School, Taylor had an underwhelming career in the high-level Stanford program, batting just .309 with 23 homers in four seasons there. He was undrafted as a junior. Nor did he dazzle the Phillies' minor league brass with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters. Taylor hit .227 with six homers in 66 games. But he showed flashes of his athleticism with a powerful arm and eight steals.

In 2008, he flirted with the Rollins Line his first month at low-A Lakewood. But when he was promoted to high-A Clearwater June 19, the Sally League midseason All-Star was leading the league with a .361 average. The Florida State League is the toughest in organized ball for young hitters. The night air is saturated with suffocating humidity. The teams play in dead-air major league spring-training ballparks for crowds composed of family and friends. The young pitchers throw hard and are starting to dial in their secondary pitches. Once again, Taylor appeared overmatched by the midseason promotion. So, he finished at .329. Thirty-seven of his 80 hits were for extra bases, including 27 doubles. At the two levels, Taylor hit .346 with 19 homers and 88 RBI. Oh . . . and with 15 steals and 18 laser outfield assists.

Factoring his big-season-in-progress at Reading, Taylor has now hit .342 at his last three minor league levels. However, his big-fly production is lagging behind where Howard was at this stage. Before his promotion to Triple A after 102 games in 2004, Ryan had 37 homers and 102 RBI in Reading. He finished 2004 with 48 homers and 136 RBI at three levels.

If there is a knock on Taylor, it is a swing more efficient at hitting balls through fences than over them. He acquired a flat, line-drive contact stroke at Stanford. When he elevates the baseball - got a few hours, Charlie? - it is a two-meals-and-a-movie flight.

You can handle a No. 3 hitter in the Dave Winfield mold down the road, right? Playing righthanded counterpoint to this generation's Willie McCovey.

Hopefully, during the intense pitching search to come, Ruben Amaro will remember the immortal words of Leland Stanford: "Cardinal blood is thicker than water."

I'll add: "A 6-6, 250-pound, five-tooler is a terrible thing to waste." *

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/conlin.

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