Zach Walters & Chris Taylor: Deep League Wire

If you need middle infield help, you’ve come to the right place. Whether it’s power or speed you need, there’s a name for everybody.

Zach Walters | SS/3B CLE | CBS 2% Owned

After being acquired from the Nationals in exchange for Asdrubal Cabrera, the immediate thought was that he would be the man to replace the latter, if only to keep the seat warm for prospect Francisco Lindor. That didn’t happen though, at least not yet, as he was instead sent to Triple-A. But the Indians are dealing with a rash of injuries on the offensive side and Walters has played second base, shortstop, third base and left field in the minors this year. So the team recalled him on Sunday and he started in left field for his Indians debut.

He could easily see some time all over the diamond, given him serious positional flexibility in fantasy leagues. The nearly 25-year-old has shown good power throughout his minor league career, but enjoyed a further surge in 2013 which carried over into this year as his ISO jumped above .300. He doesn’t make great contact, which is a typical story for a power hitter, but his strikeout rates haven’t been outrageously high. Of course, he doesn’t walk a whole lot either, meaning his offensive value is closely tied to his power output. Fantasy owners shouldn’t care much about that for this season, but it means that his future as a potential long-term starter is in question.

He has a touch of speed, but hasn’t stolen a base all season, so really the hope here is that he could provide a bunch of homers while not completely killing your batting average. His BABIP marks have jumped all over the place, so it’s hard to get a read on what kind of true talent level he possesses in that department. The ZiPS and Steamer projections show us the downside if he does lack any sort of above average BABIP skill, projecting RoS batting averages around .230. But given his power potential and positional flexibility, he’s a worthy gamble in deeper leagues.

Chris Taylor | SS SEA | 9% Owned

This recommendation makes me sad. I was a big fan of Brad Miller‘s heading into the season, drafting him in two of my three leagues, but outside of June, he’s been useless with the bat all season. The Mariners had clearly seen enough and decided to recall Taylor two and a half weeks ago. The M’s never made any official announcement, but it’s clear that he has overtaken Miller as the team’s starting shortstop. Of course, it doesn’t appear that he has as much offensive upside as Miller does, but that doesn’t really matter at the moment.

Taylor can take a walk and has struck out at roughly league average levels. He has shown a bit of pop throughout his minor league career, but doesn’t appear to have the same power potential as Miller does. He’s more of a base stealer though, having swiped 43 bags last year while getting caught just seven times. He has run less frequently this year, but was still on a pace to steal over 20 over a full season. He’s also shown some serious BABIP skills, regularly posting marks above .350, which could lead to positive value in the batting average category despite just a mediocre strikeout rate.

I would certainly not count Miller out over the long haul and would not be confident in claiming that Taylor will open next season as the team’s starting shortstop, but for now, he’s worth considering. Of course, his .474 BABIP is going to decline and that could lead to a week long slump that gives Miller another chance. But given how long they stuck with Miller to begin with, I doubt they switch back so quickly and give Taylor such a short leash.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

5 Responses to “Zach Walters & Chris Taylor: Deep League Wire”

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  1. Spa City says:

    The M’s have two solid options at short. Miller obviously has potential and a history of hitting well. Taylor does everything fairly well; he draws walks, runs well, plays reasonably good defense and is a capable hitter.

    Thanks for Carson Cistulli’s Fringe 5 column, I identified Taylor as an OttoNeu asset and I obtained him as a waiver claim for $1. I recommend that all OttoNeu owners do so as well before he gets more expensive. He is unlikely to get less expensive. Shortstops who can hit reasonably well, draw walks and steal bases are hard to find.

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  2. Plubius says:

    Would you drop Alcides for Taylor in a 5×5 redraft?

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  3. mario mendoza says:

    I have a hard time seeing how Chris Taylor could NOT be the starting SS next year, at least at the start, if it’s only over Miller. Conversely, I don’t see how Miller can prove himself again unless Taylor is as bad in April and May as Miller was this year.

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