VIERA, Fla. -- Michael Taylor could be the Nationals' center fielder of the future. Ranked by MLB.com as the fourth-best prospect in the Nats' Minor League system, Taylor is expected to start the season for Double-A Harrisburg. But the first order of business is to make an impression in big league camp.
"He has tremendous character," said Nationals director of player development Mark Scialabba. "He is a great teammate, works extremely hard, he is very diligent in his work ethic. He is very determined. Those are things that really impress me about him."
Taylor made tremendous strides last year while playing for Class A Potomac, hitting .263 with 10 home runs, 87 RBIs and a .340 on-base percentage. He was aggressive on the bases, stealing 51 stolen bases while getting caught seven times.
"You can look at the stolen bases and the efficiency," Scialabba said. "Why that happened is because he became more aggressive and he knows he can get better leads, better jumps. It's an important part of his game."
Taylor then went to the Puerto Rican Winter League and flourished, going 50-for 137 (.365) with a .428 on-base percentage for Indios de Mayaguez.
"He has a way to go [with the bat], but he is showing that he can make the adjustments," Scialabba said. "The bat has come a long way. His ability to handle the strike zone, being more disciplined is going to be the key to his success. He has tremendous raw power, especially the pull side."
Talk to the Nats about Taylor's defense and they will tell you he is a Major League-caliber center fielder. Not bad for a guy who started his professional career as a shortstop.
"He is a premium center fielder," Scialabba said. "He has tremendous range. He has a plus arm. That is his strongest tool. … I don't want to put pressure on him to say [that he is Major League ready defensively], but his skills and tools translate very well to the Major League game. He is going to impress some people in big league camp."
Hitting coach Schu believes in Espinosa
VIERA, Fla. -- Like many in the Nationals organization, hitting coach Rick Schu believes in second baseman Danny Espinosa and thinks that Espinosa has the tools to become a consistent hitter.
Espinosa is coming off the worst year of his career and spent most of the season at Triple-A Syracuse. Espinosa struck out a combined 148 times in 471 at-bats for the Nats and Chiefs. It didn't help that he was dealing with a right wrist injury all season.
Espinosa will battle Anthony Rendon for the starting second-base job.
"I'm going to talk to Danny to see what he is working on," Schu said. "I hear he had a great winter working out. I know Danny from the Minor Leagues, when I was a hitting coordinator. Great guy, great athlete. The bottom line with him is to make sure he is healthy.
"For me, what I see offensively, he can be the total package. He could be that guy that hits for average. He is a switch-hitter, power from both sides, he is really an exciting guy. He had an off year because of injuries. Playing in the big leagues is tough."
Solano vying for backup catching position
VIERA, Fla. -- Jhonatan Solano is one of seven catchers trying out to be Wilson Ramos' understudy. Solano knows what he has to do to make the team. Besides calling a good game behind the plate, he needs to be more consistent in the batter's box.
Last year was not a good one for Solano offensively. While playing for Triple-A Syracuse, Solano hit .214 without hitting for power. Solano played well defensively after he was promoted to the big club, but he didn't do much with the bat, going 7-for-48 (.146). Solano plans to change his mental approach to the game.
"I didn't have a lot of at-bats," Solano said. "To be honest, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I would play [once a week] or once every 10 days. When I played, I tried to do too much. That was the problem last year. This year… I'm going to enjoy the game. That's it."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.