The Seattle Mariners have purchased the contract of shortstop Chris Taylor, the club announced prior to Thursday’s game versus the Baltimore Orioles. Taylor takes the roster spot of right-hander Taijuan Walker, who was optioned after Wednesday’s game.
Taylor was a 5th-round selection in the 2012 Draft out of the University of Virginia where the club landed lefty Danny Hultzen and catcher John Hicks the previous June. Taylor came to pro ball as a defense-first shortstop, and some scouts deemed him a glove-only player. He ranked No. 10 in my pre-season M’s prospect rankings.
Taylor has done nothing but hit at every stop, however, starting at short-season Everett during his draft year and through 75 games in Triple-A Tacoma.
He will work counts, does not chase out of the zone and despite a swing that still needs work he’s hit for average (.328) earned his way on base (.397 OBP) and even shown a little pop (.497 slugging percentage) in the Pacific Coast League in 2014.
A lot of the power has come on the road in Salt Lake, Reno, Las Vegas and Albuquerque, but he does possess a .457 slugging at Cheney Stadium, considered a fairly neutral enviornment, but one that favors pitchers the first two months of the year in the cold weather.
His swing is engineered for line drives, but he’s adept at using the right-center field alley for doubles. He will strike out a bit more than is ideal, but he offsets that with consistency and the ability to draw a walk.
Taylor is a slightly above-average runner but can steal the occasional base and take the extra one at every opportunity. He has very good hands and feet and enough arm to stick at shortstop long term.
He’s not going to hit for much power at Safeco Field, but can shoot the gaps and will generally keep the ball out of the air, giving himself a chance to reach base. Mechanically he’s sound with the exception of a limiting swing plane; he stays closed, rarely gets out on his front foot and does not fly open in attempt to pull the ball for power. He stays inside the ball well and has been a model of consistency with his swing and setup.
Taylor could come to the big leagues and hit the ball pretty well for awhile, but at some point he’ll have to make the adjustment Nick Franklin and Brad Miller have struggled to make, mostly on hard stuff on the outer half and versus the best offspeed stuff he’s ever seen, and he’ll have to do it every single night.
One thing in Taylor’s favor there is his approach is all about contact and line drives. Power is not part of his game, whereas with Miller and Franklin it is, without either doing anything differently, those two hit for power in their natural swings. Taylor is simply looking to do what James Jones and Endy Chavez do, albeit with better patience and chance to hit the gaps a bit more.
It wouldn’t shock anyone if Taylor struggled some, but the 23-year-old could just as easily provide a little spark here and there. I don’t anticipate Taylor providing a canvas that paints Miller into a full-time demotion to Tacoma, but he’s a right-handed bat that gives skipper Lloyd McClendon a lot more lineup flexibility and allows Willie Bloomquist to go from backup shortstop to the utility type the club envisioned from the get-go.
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