Brad Miller and Chris Taylor Vie For The Mariners Starting Shortstop Job


"*EDIT* This article was written before news of Chris Taylor’s fractured wrist, an injury that looks to sideline him for 4-6 weeks by most reports."

And the Mariners starting shortstop is…

Well, you still have to wait a few weeks to find out.

Last year Brad Miller was the guy.  Until he wasn’t.  And Chris Taylor was called up and actually outperformed Miller at the plate in limited playing time.  Taylor posting a .287/.347/.346 in 151 PA to Miller’s .221/.288/.365 in 411 PA.

Chris Taylor and Brad Miller are in a dead heat as far as their spring training numbers go.  It would have made for an easier decision if one of them just flat outplayed the other over the course of the Spring, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

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Here are their relevant triple slashes so far:

Chris Taylor: .421/.450/.842

Brad Miller: .400/.438/.933

Pretty similar numbers.  Miller’s shown a little more power than Taylor, but Taylor has been able to get on base a touch more often.  Either way you look at it, it’s pretty much a dead heat at the plate.  Maybe they’ve differentiated themselves with their play on defense.  Let’s see.

Chris Taylor: 25.0 innings, 0 errors

Brad Miller: 24.0 innings, 1 error

Maddeningly similar there as well.  Taylor’s glove has historically been better than Miller, but based on limited Spring Training numbers there isn’t much distance between the two.

I realize that innings and errors aren’t the best metrics for measuring defensive prowess, but it’s Spring Training and we take what numbers we can find.

So it looks like we’re in the midst of a true position battle.  It seems like most folks, and I include myself in this group, believe that Miller will win out; the thought being that his bat has a better track record and more upside that Taylor’s.  So let’s say Miller does win the starting SS, what would that mean for Taylor.

It’s quite possible the M’s use him in a role akin to that of Ben Zobrist, playing him all over the field to keep in in the lineup and give the starters days off.  The nearest comparison in recent M’s history would be Willie Bloomquist; a utility fielder that leverages the value of his defense.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we see the M’s turn Taylor into the Swiss Army knife in the M’s drawer of position player cutlery.  Does the spoon that is Dustin Ackley need a day off in the outfield?  Taylor could be that spoon.  Does the fork that is Robinson Cano need a break at 2nd?  Taylor could be that fork.

Cutlery metaphor aside, there is every chance that even if Chris Taylor ends up losing out on a starting role with the team he could well find at bats to be found at multiple positions.

But until the final rosters shake out, and we find out who’s going to play where and how often, let’s just enjoy the fact that two young players (Miller is 25 and Taylor 24) on the Mariners roster are laying it all on the line trying to win a starting spot with the big club.  And whoever wins out, we should take the time to appreciate the struggle.

"*EDIT*  Well, with Taylor’s injury it looks as the though the M’s shortstop will be Brad Miller to start the season.  Taylor looks to return at the end of April, and if everything goes right for him in rehab I still look for him to take on a super-utility role with the big club.  Wrist injuries, have proven to be difficult for some hitters to return from quickly so we’ll have to see how it all plays out.  But since the value of Taylor comes predominantly from his defense, he may still have enough value for the M’s to let him work though any hitting woes he may experience."

Next: Robinson Cano Returns to Mariners’ Lineup Saturday

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