Nationals' outfield depth takes a hit with Michael Taylor sidelined for 'significant amount of time'

Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor has fallen injured in spring training -- with a sprained left knee and hip -- and manager Dave Martinez said it's a pretty bad situation Friday: 

Taylor isn't a star by any stretch, but he's a good defensive center fielder and while he was bad in 2018 at the plate, he hit .271/.320/.486 with 19 homers and 17 steals in 2017. Notably with Bryce Harper having signed elsewhere, Taylor was a key part of the Nationals' outfield equation this season, especially when it comes to depth. 

Here's what they've got now. 

Left field: Juan Soto. Stud. Also only 20 years old with less than a full season under his belt.

Center field: Victor Robles. Big upside, but he's only 21 years old and has just 93 career MLB plate appearances. 

Right field: Adam Eaton. Eaton has hit .300/.394/.422 (115 OPS+) in his two seasons with the Nationals, though "seasons" is a stretch. The injury-prone Eaton played in just 23 games in 2017 and 95 last year. 

Bench: Here's the real issue. Should one of the three aforementioned outfielders get injured or one of the kids struggle mightily, the Nats are scraping for players to fill in. Howie Kendrick is hurt to start the season. Wilmer Difo could be pressed into outfield action. Andrew Stevenson is a career .212/.282/.265 hitter in the majors (152 PA). The only other viable option in big-league camp is Hunter Jones, who has just 37 games of Triple-A action on his resume, though he did hit .305/.354/.466 in those games last season. 

If the Nationals do elect to grab a veteran free agent, there are options left that might work. Carlos Gonzalez is still a free agent, though the Nats likely need someone who can handle center field and he can't. Might they reconnect with Denard Span, who played with the Nats 2013-15? Otherwise, Austin Jackson and Chris Young are the remaining options unsigned who could try to play center. That's it. 

Being this late in camp and getting news like Taylor and the Nationals did is pretty tough, but they still have time to patch things up. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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