If you believed Jerry Dipoto was going to let the trade deadline slide by unnoticed, welcome to Lookout Landing, because you must be new here, you sweet summer child. Wipe your feet and follow the community guidelines. Yet even those of us who have been tasked with reporting on the deals of Seattle’s frenzied GM were somewhat wrong-footed by the sheer scope of the deal that went down yesterday. If you need a quick refresh on the deal, you can find that here. Now that the dust has settled on this deal (FOR NOW), we’re going to spend the rest of the week taking an in-depth look at each of the four players the Mariners acquired. The logical place to start is with Taylor Trammell, the ostensible headliner of this trade and the most highly ranked player coming to Seattle.
(Yesterday there were murmurings the Mariners might be flipping Trammell as rumors swirled about a three-team trade. If Taylor Trammell is still a Mariner as you’re reading this, proceed. If not, you never saw this article [puff of smoke].)
For all these prospect pieces, we’ll be looking primarily at four big questions:
- Why did the Padres give this player up?
- Why did the Mariners target this player?
- What is the best-case scenario for this player, and what needs to happen for them to get there?
- What are the risks?
For the answer to question one, why the Padres parted with this player, pretty much everything will involve some variation on “they didn’t have room for him.” One of the downsides of having a super-stacked farm system and ownership that’s willing to hand out big contracts to stars is eventually you run out of places for all these people to play. Trammell is Rule 5 eligible this December, so the Padres would have had to make a decision on him one way or another—a decision that will now pass to the Mariners, who have significantly more flexibility with their roster. See, it’s actually a good thing the Mariners don’t have a Tatís Jr. Who doesn’t love some good roster flexibility?
Outfield is one area where the Mariners rebuild is actually pretty flush, which is hilarious to think about when you consider the amount of time non-outfielders are getting in the corner spots in 2020. So the Mariners didn’t exactly target Trammell (whose name, by the way, is pronounced Trah-MELL, accent on the second syllable) because of his position. Yet TT has several other attributes that light up the happy sensors in Jerry Dipoto’s brain.
Trammell is super-fast, with a floor of 20 stolen bases per year, so he fits right in with the run-happy Mariners’ “all your bases are belong to us” strategy. He also checks the box of “post-hype prospect”/”former first-rounder who maybe wasn’t developed awesomely” (J.P. Crawford waves hello). A two-sport athlete in high school in Kennesaw, GA (in addition to baseball, he was also a safety/running back for the football team), Trammell was a buzzed-about name in the 2016 draft despite not being as heavily on the showcase scene as some of his peers; he was a late addition to the 2015 Under Armour Game and wasn’t at the Perfect Game All-American Classic, two of the biggest showcase events in the country. Trammell was barely in the Top 100 draft prospects in Baseball America’s first mock draft in March, but had climbed just outside the top 30 by May (fun fact, that mock draft also had Kyle Lewis going second overall), into the low 20s by late May, and all the way to 12th overall in the final June mock draft (wherein Kyle Lewis slid to third, and the Mariners were projected to take Justin Dunn the pick before Trammell). In the actual draft, Trammell lasted all the way to the supplemental first round, where the Reds—who had already taken Nick Senzel and would receive heaps of acclaim for their draft—pounced.
At 6’2 and already close to 200 pounds, the expectation for Trammell was that he would eventually grow into a power-speed player—something that would need to happen, as his arm strength in the outfield was considered too fringy for anything but left field. As mentioned, Trammell has elite speed—he’s a 70-grade runner—but his arm was seen as too weak for right or even center, putting more pressure on the bat. (Trammell, to his credit, has worked on developing arm strength, and is offended by constant niggling about his arm. “It’s not a little floppy thing” he told The Athletic back in March.) So to circle back to our key questions and the ceiling/risk part, the ceiling for Trammell depends on if he can hit enough to develop into the power-speed threat prospect writers dreamed on early in his career.
Power-speed players are highly coveted; think Ronald Acuña, Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger (fine, Michael Trout if you must, I’m not trying to make you think more about Trout than you have to. I look out for you that way, LL reader.) Unfortunately, as Trammell has moved up through the minors, although his speed has remained consistent, his slugging percentage has steadily dropped. He’s performed well at various showcases—the 2018 AFL, the 2018 and 2019 Futures Games—but the power part of the equation seemed to be missing. Trammell was eventually moved to the Padres last July in the three-team trade that saw Cincinnati net Trevor Bauer and Cleveland, Puig and Franmil Reyes. Trammell’s numbers perked up some at Double-A Amarillo—his ISO jumped from .100 to .150—but it’s important to note that the Padres’ new field, Hodgetown, is a ridiculously offense-inflated hitters’ park. That is reflected in Trammell’s home/road splits: in Amarillo he hit .269/.347/.493; while on the road, an abysmal .176/.276/.235.
There was something else going on for Trammell in the Texas League, however. After years of having heard the message that he was an important part of the Reds future, a poster child for their system, he suddenly found himself deposited in a prospect-rich Padres system where he felt the need to prove himself all over again. That led to pressing at the plate, an increased K%—Trammell has mostly been solid with plate discipline, posting near double-digit walk percentages while keeping his K% in the lower 20s; that number soared at Amarillo to almost 30%—and a dismal start to his career as a Padre. Trammell, who is a swing tinkerer to begin with, went back and watched film, making some changes to his stance to help him access his power more, standing taller, changing his hand position, and narrowing his stance.
Here’s Trammell hitting in 2017 in the Midwest League. Note the pre-pitch bat waggle, the crouch-y, wide stance, and where his hands are:
And another from the Futures Game in 2019, where he’s slightly more upright and the hands are away from the body more:
Then, with Amarillo, you can see the stance narrow:
Another big moment for Taylor Trammell in last night’s game. He had 2 hits last night in Game 1 of the TLCS.— Sam Levitt (@SammyLev) September 11, 2019
His last 15 games (regular/postseason):
.368 BA, 3 HR, 9 RBI pic.twitter.com/mMTSL5Vrhe
And then here, in this past Spring Training, where he’s gone almost Bellinger-upright and added a small leg kick:
Hit 'em where they ain't!#Padres prospect Taylor Trammell finds some outfield grass with this base hit to plate a pair of runs today in #SpringTraining action.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 5, 2020
Learn more about the @Padres outfielder here: https://t.co/IEadGjL3ls pic.twitter.com/ReZIn3iFTh
That analytical approach speaks to yet another thing the Mariners prize in their prospects. Trammell, from all accounts, earns rave reviews as a person: thoughtful, humble, and reflective on the need for more Black representation in the game. He’ll join a team with the largest number of Black players in baseball, where players are encouraged to be themselves, where analytics are a common language in analyzing the craft, and where the mental side of the game—the thing that waylaid Trammell when he first joined the Padres organization—is given as much attention as anything that’s done on the field. The Mariners are banking on Trammell adapting well to the system and thriving as a player, but also as a person. So far he’s already off to a pretty good start in feeling at home here, hopefully:
The Athletic article talks a lot about Trammell trying to rediscover his free, lose, and easy playing style, something he did towards the end of the 2019 season as part of a championship run with the Amarillo Sod Poodles.
reminder that Taylor Trammell’s last official at-bat of 2019 (and as a Padres prospect) was a go-ahead grand slam for the @sodpoodles in the top of the 9th inning of the Texas League championship game pic.twitter.com/FxLSlkNFKZ— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) August 31, 2020
Pack up that joy and drive it up I-5, Taylor. We are ready for it here in Seattle.