The Seattle Mariners promoted shortstop prospect Chris Taylo to the major league roster yesterday and he went 1-for-3 in his major league debut. He was having an outstanding minor league season. With Willie Bloomquist on the disabled list and Brad Miller struggling to keep his batting average over .200, Taylor has a chance to impress. What will he do with that chance?
Taylor played college ball at the University of Virginia. He was not a dominant offensive player in college, putting up a .284/.383/.445 line in 2012, but his defensive skills were highly-regarded and he was drafted in the fifth round by the Mariners. The general consensus was that he projected as a utility player due to his solid glovework and baserunning, but that he'd need to show more with the bat to have a chance to start.
He did just that, hitting .328/.430/.474 for Everett in the Northwest League after signing. Of course, lots of college players hit well in the Northwest League but fail to carry forward at higher levels. Taylor was an exception however, jumping up to High-A High Desert to open 2013 and hitting .335/.426/.524 with 20 steals in 67 games.
The caveat there was High Desert, where pitchers go to die. However, he proved it wasn't a complete mirage in the second half, hitting .293/.391/.383 with 18 steals in 67 games for Double-A Jackson. The Cal League power didn't carry forward, but he continued to hit for average, get on base, and swipe bags at an excellent clip.
Taylor has thrived at Triple-A Tacoma in 2014, hitting .328/.397/.497 with 14 steals, 35 walks, and 74 strikeouts in 302 at-bats. He has little left to prove in the minors and the big league promotion is fully deserved.
Listed at 6-1, 190, Taylor is a right-handed hitter born August 29, 1990 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Scouts have always respected his polished approach to the game. He has above-average range, soft hands, and makes few mental mistakes. His arm strength is just adequate and as a result I think he fits better at second base; he's stretched on difficult throws from shortstop.
That said, he's not a bad shortstop by any means: he's solidly good there, certainly quite playable, but my read is that he can be truly excellent at second. His running speed is just a tick above average but he is an aggressive and very talented baserunner who swipes bases frequently and at a good success percentage.
All of that has been known since he was in college, but the big surprise here has been the hitting. Taylor always showed a good feel for the strike zone, but it was unclear how the bat would project at higher levels, which is why he lasted until the fifth round. Although he's not a huge home run hitter, he's shown respectable pop and has maintained this against all levels of minor league pitching. He is an all-field hitter who can hit the opposite way but will also show some surprising pull power at times. His swing is mechanically sound and he handles both fastballs and breaking stuff, at least in the minors.
I still think Brad Miller will have a fine career, but Taylor provides another valid option and deserves a shot with the Mariners struggling offensively. If Miller gets his bat unlocked, so much the better. If he doesn't, Taylor could very well take the shortstop job full-time.
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