Mariners Analysis: What does the Future Hold for Chris Taylor?

Jul 10, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor (1) tracks the ball during the fifth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor (1) tracks the ball during the fifth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

Chris Taylor was once considered the shortstop of the future for the Seattle Mariners, but now he faces an uncertain future in the Emerald City.

Chris Taylor was the Seattle Mariners everyday shortstop as recently as September of 2014. Fast forward to the present, and Taylor is gearing up to fight for his life this spring in Peoria. The Mariners have been busy this offseason adding talent, and Taylor is expected to battle for one of the final spots on the M’s opening day roster.

The light hitting shortstop was a key contributor down the stretch for an M’s team that fell just one game short of reaching the postseason in 2014. Taylor hit .287 with 0 home runs, 9 RBI and 5 stolen bases following his call-up in late July. He recorded 8 doubles and posted an impressive .347 on base percentage across 47 games.

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Taylor entered last spring with a 50/50 shot to be the Mariners’ starting shortstop. He got off to a fine start in Cactus League action before breaking his right wrist. The injury effectively took him out of the running, and Brad Miller was awarded with the gig.

The 25-year-old began the 2015 season Tacoma with the Rainiers, but he appeared in 37 games for the Mariners. Taylor failed to take advantage of his opportunities, posting a dismal slash line of .170/.220/.223 through 102 plate appearances.

Despite Taylor’s struggles in Seattle, he managed to find much more success down the road in Tacoma last season. He hit an even .300 with 20 doubles, 6 triples, 4 home runs, 32 RBI and 16 stolen bases across 86 games. Taylor’s .391 on base percentage was amongst the best on the team, and his .429 slugging percentage was more than respectable.

The University of Virgina alum’s calling card is his work with the leather. Taylor possesses soft hands and a very strong throwing arm. He has spent the bulk of his time at shortstop, but he has experience playing second base and third base. Taylor has a .976 career fielding percentage, and his 4.18 range factor per 9 innings beats the league average.

I have never been a fan of Chris Taylor as the Mariners starting shortstop. He simply does not hit well enough to play everyday. However, I have always loved the idea of Taylor serving in a utility infielder role. His skill set is perfectly suited for this job. Taylor is a quality defender, he makes consistent contact at the plate and his wheels are above average.

However, the job will not just be handed to Taylor. Shawn O’Malley earned playing time all over the diamond for the M’s last season, and he will compete with Taylor this spring. Newcomers Luis Sardinas and Ed Lucas will also battle for the utility infielder job in Peoria. The Mariners are expected to only carry one of these players on their 25-man roster.

Sardinas was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason, and he is a very intriguing young player. The 22-year-old has experience playing shortstop and second base, and is regarded as a plus fielder. He has posted a slash line of .231/.274/.269 across 79 career games. Much like Taylor, Sardinas has struggled to hit for power. He has tallied just 7 extra-base hits and 0 home runs through his 230 career plate appearances. Sardinas is very similar to Taylor on the field, but he is three years younger and is a switch-hitter.

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O’Malley is likely to be Taylor’s stiffest competition this spring. The Southridge, WA product did a solid job at the dish for Seattle in 2015, hitting .262 with 1 home run, 7 RBI and 3 stolen bases in 26 games. O’Malley also posted a superb 14:12 strikeout to walk ratio, which allowed him to register a .418 on base percentage. The 28-year-old played four positions for the M’s last season, and he is capable of playing seven different spots. O’Malley is not just versatile on defense, as he is a switch-hitter and a great bunter. He does the little things well, and should be viewed as a strong candidate to crack the M’s opening day roster.

It is worth noting that Taylor is a holdover from the Jack Zduriencik era in Seattle. Zduriencik and his staff selected Taylor in the 5th round of the 2012 draft. New General Manager Jerry Dipoto has been quick to jettison key players from the former regime this offseason. Taylor was thought to be a favorite of former infield instructor Chris Woodward, but he is no longer around to fight for him.

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Chris Taylor still has minor-league options remaining, and I expect Jerry Dipoto to take advantage of this. O’Malley is one of the more versatile players in the organization, and I believe he has a chance to be the next Willie Bloomquist in Seattle. Taylor could seperate himself from O’Malley and Sardinas with a stellar showing this spring, but I expect him to open the season with the Rainiers in Tacoma. Regardless of where he starts 2016, look for Taylor to appear in 30-50 games this year with the Mariners.