July 25, 2014
The Situation: The Mariners aren’t getting offensive production from the shortstop position at the major-league level, and Taylor has been swinging serious wood at the Triple-A level.
Background: Taylor was an unheralded fifth round selection in the 2012 draft from the University of Virginia despite showing fundamental defensive skills and wheels at the collegiate level. He’s made steady progress since turning pro, hitting at every level and really shining last fall in the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League, with his gap-to-gap approach and leather ability at a premium spot.
Scouting Report: Taylor is a polished talent with louder tools than he receives credit for; the arm is strong enough to make left-side throws, the actions at short are clean and athletic, he’s a legit plus runner and he has hard contact ability with the solid-average hit tool. He lacks major-league average power but uses all fields and has gap pop, which keeps his bat from playing empty, and he understands his own strike zone, so will put together good at-bats and force pitchers to beat him. It’s a soft profile in the sense that he isn’t likely to emerge as a middle-of-the-lineup threat or Gold Glove level defender, but he’s basically the prototype for an average player at the major-league level, with more value to the average team because of his defensive ability at a premium spot and his catalytic ability on the bases.
Immediate Impact: Taylor’s bat-to-ball skills, legs, and ability to play shortstop are going to allow him to hold his own at the major-league level right out of the gate. It’s never going to be special and he’s always going to have to prove himself because of the higher ceiling talent that exists at the position elsewhere in the org, but his fundamental baseball ability will make him a safer choice for major-league reps going forward. I had one scouting director refer to Taylor as a Ryan Theriot type, a player who doesn’t receive much credit but enjoys a respectable career at the major-league level and brings more to a team than the stat sheet might suggest. It’s not the worst comp for Taylor. —Jason Parks
Fantasy Impact: Somewhere in here there's a "how many shortstops does it take to screw in a light bulb in Seattle" joke. First there was Brad Miller, who has been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this year. Then there was Nick Franklin, who can't really play shortstop and who the Mariners' just refused to play on a regular basis, even off-position, to spark the offense. Enter Taylor, who likely would have gotten the call a month and a half ago had be not broken a finger when he was red hot.
The word on the street is that Taylor will get the majority of playing time now that he's finally getting the call--even the Mariners wouldn't call him up to sit most of the time, right? With potentially two months of playing time ahead of him, Taylor could hit for a helpful average (.280 is possible), contribute 5-7 steals with good counting stats (more runs than RBI) and 2-3 homers. It may not be the sexiest profile, but shortstop isn't the sexiest position for fantasy purposes.
Taylor is someone worth picking up immediately in 16-team mixed leagues and deeper that have middle infield slots. It's certainly possible that he could be usable in shallow mixed by the end of the season, but for now he's wait and see in that format. In AL-only leagues, Taylor is worth a $15+ bid in AL-only formats if you have a weak spot in the middle infield, and slightly less if you don't. In dynasty formats, Taylor is a much more attractive in deep leagues, since his skill set doesn't lend itself to him being a top-ten fantasy shortstop. That said, I'd be willing to take a shot on him in 12-team mixed formats with deep benches if I had the roster spot to see what shakes out here. —Bret Sayre
Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @ProfessorParks