The Steamer600 projections were released last week. Projections are fun to look at as long as you take their worth for what they are - projections. Us Mariner fans are more than used to getting grand projections for young players as of late, only to watch the young players not do very much through the "breakout" year.
On a quick glance through each position, something stands out at shortstop. Namely, the Mariners are projected to be very good at the position - not once, but twice. The top-five shortstops arranged by WAR goes like this: Troy Tulowitzki, Andrelton Simmons, Brad Miller, Hanley Ramirez and Chris Taylor. Based on 600 plate appearances, Miller is projected to have a 3.4 WAR and Taylor is expected to reach 3.2. To put those projections into perspective, if Miller reaches that value, he would have tied Jimmy Rollins for the fourth highest WAR this season. Taylor's 3.2 would be sandwiched between Jose Reyes and Starlin Castro.
Obviously, those projections are a bit inflated. Most likely, neither Mariner will see 600 trips to the plate. Only 10 shortstops in the league saw the plate over 600 times. Only two Mariners saw the plate over 600 times. The point though, is that regardless of how inflated those specific projections might be, the projections are looking good for both shortstops. Unfortunately, shortstop is a position often times manned by one man, and theoretically the Mariners have two of the top five in the league.
Miller, for his part, is expected to have a better hitting year than he did in 2014. Taylor is up there because he is a capable hitter with a more than capable arm. Each player brings a slightly different toolset to the table, but at the moment, there isn't necessarily space for both on the team. The Mariners planned for a platoon at first base/DH at the beginning of the season and then planned on Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano trotting out for virtually every game. Seager and Cano followed through with that, and barring injury, there isn't much of a reason to expect that to change next season. If either Miller or Taylor secures the shortstop position in a remotely full-time status, the odd man out will have a long season of high-fiving teammates in the dugout. Especially if Willie Bloomquist is also hanging around.
The question then becomes which one would you like to see more often in a Mariners uniform next season? Often times, to either get people confused or to prove a point, bloggers will do one of those Person A, Person B comparisons and then hit you with the surprise afterwards. So here we go.
And now time for the big reveal! Person A is Taylor's 2014 season. Person B is Miller's 2013 season. In 2013, Miller clubbed a bunch of balls to make up for his fielding, and that was why he was worth something. This past season, Taylor fielded a bunch of balls to make up for his constant stream of just singles, and that is why he was worth something.
So, theoretically, we have two candidates on this team worth close to the same amount, and at that point we should be looking at one of them as a potential trade chip. The Mariners are definitely in the 2015 competition boat, and either Taylor or Miller should be a popular name at the winter meetings.
If I were a betting man, I would bet on Miller being the one that gets shipped off if a trade were to happen. Because, as most of us know, being Brendan Ryan only gets you appreciation from the most devoted of baseball nerds, and those baseball nerds aren't the managers making the lineup every day. If you take a look at the UZR ratings of shortstops last year, it is a number that goes south rather quickly. Plenty of teams across the league have demonstrated to value offense over defense at the shortstop position.
As Nick Franklin showcased earlier this year, the allure of young, potentially powerful hitters still holds weight in front offices across the league. Not to say that Taylor has reached his offensive apex, but, as his spray chart shows, he doesn't hit the ball far too often.
Miller, meanwhile, has some pop in his step and has shown he is capable of being an impactful bat for periods of a time. In June of 2014, Miller hit .298/.355/.512 with five home runs for a wRC+ of 146. That line is much better than anything Taylor showed last year, and most likely more offensively productive than what Taylor can muster. Granted, June of 2014 is just a month of baseball and what Miller needs to show is he can extend that month into several. But as far as power prospects go, he beats out Taylor's ISO of #ERROR by an infinite amount. Power, or at least the prospect of it, still gets people more excited than a single does.
As good of a chance as there is that one of the two players gets traded, there is just as good of a chance that both end up on the roster starting next season. In a winter of potential storylines, this will be an interesting one to follow.