The Mariners seem intent on remaking their offense, which ranks next-to-last in the American League in runs scored and dead last in the AL with a .673 OPS. This despite adding Robinson Cano and others in the offseason.
They made two roster-altering moves on Thursday, first trading for first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales, who in 2013 hit 23 homers and led the Mariners in average (.277), hits (167), doubles (34) and RBIs (80).
The second move involved dipping into the farm system to promote shortstop Chris Taylor from Triple-A Tacoma. Through 75 games Taylor slashed .328/.397/.497 with five homers and 37 RBIs.
A fifth-round pick from Virginia in 2012, Taylor signed for $500,000 following his junior season. He was considered a glove-first prospect when he entered pro ball, but he hit his way to Double-A Jackson in 2013. He handles the bat well, and though scouts say he does not possess home run-power, he has shown the ability to hit for gap power, with 34 extra-base hits this season in 302 at-bats.
At the Triple-A all-star game in Durham, he pounded two doubles, including one off the tall blue wall in left-center field, a performance for which he was singled out as “top star” for the Pacific Coast League. Taylor’s strong performance this season is not a PCL illusion. His home park in Tacoma depresses doubles and runs scored, relative to parks the Rainiers visit on the road. In fact, Taylor has done the majority of his damage away from Tacoma (.952 OPS on the road versus .815 at home).
The Mariners’ No. 8 prospect in the Midseason Prospect Update, Taylor brings positional versatility and an ability to hit for average to the Mariners, and he could carve a useful career as a utility player. But it seems the Mariners could plug him in in place of shortstop Brad Miller, who’s posted a .598 OPS thus far.
What To Expect
If Seattle is looking for an offensive upgrade at short, it seems reasonable to expect Taylor will get the majority of starts there. While he profiles better at second base because of range and arm strength, that clearly will not happen because there’s a superior offensive and defensive player there (a guy by the name of Cano).
Taylor, however, is a stolen-base threat as well as an above-average runner, and he could give a team a boost in average while not losing any home runs in the jump from Triple-A to the majors, since that’s not his game anyway.