After adding Teoscar Hernández to their outfield mix yesterday, the Mariners thinned the outfield crop a little today with a trade, sending former Rookie of the Year and 2016 first-round draft choice Kyle Lewis to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for C/OF Cooper Hummel.
Hummel was an 18th-round draft pick of the Brewers in 2016, and was traded to Arizona in the 2021 Eduardo Escobar trade along with Alberto Ciprian. His major calling card is his ownership of the strike zone; he’s run double-digit walk rates every year of his career, including in 200 plate appearances in the bigs this season. He struck out a little more often in 2022, which is expected when a player makes the jump to MLB, but he was also striking out more often on his second tour of Triple-A—jumping from a 17% rate all the way to 25%—which is a little troubling. My guess is Hummel was pressing for power, as that’s the only thing that was lacking from his hitting resume; he hit 12 homers in 2021, which isn’t an insignificant amount but is perhaps a little underwhelming for having spent half the season in the offensively-friendly environment of the PCL.
But oh boy, does Hummel have a predilection for making those bombs count:
In fact, his first hit in MLB was a homer:
(Interesting note: one of the replies on that tweet congratulating him is from Gina Casetta, mother of former Mariners prospect Damon Casetta-Stubbs, who grew up in southwest Washington. Hummel is from Portland, OR, and went to college at the University of Portland. Hooray for Northwest baseball!)
Hummel is a switch-hitter with good numbers in the minors against both lefties and righties, although it seems like the power comes more from the left side. The Mitch Haniger comps are obvious (an off-season trade with Arizona for an outfielder who was originally drafted by Milwaukee), but there might be more of a Ty France Lite comp here: blocked in his own organization, excellent plate discipline, has hit at every level of the minors despite little to no prospect shine.
With a preponderance of outfielders in their system, the D-Backs sent Hummel to the AFL this season to work on his defense behind the plate, as that would have been his path to playing time in Arizona. The Mariners have less of a need for catchers, with Cal Raleigh, Tom Murphy, and Luis Torrens all in the mix, but also, no they don’t because everyone always needs more catchers. Hummel can compete for playing time behind the dish but also to be part of the outfield mix.
While he’s struggled to stay healthy, Kyle Lewis’s path to playing time was drastically trimmed by both the emergence of other outfield prospects for the Mariners, and additions by trade in Jesse Winker and Teoscar Hernández. The Diamondbacks have a talented young outfield crop, headlined by Seattle native and Lakeside High grad Corbin Carroll, as well as fellow former top-100 prospect Alek Thomas, both of whom made their MLB debuts this year. They also have a bevy of young players like Daulton Varsho, Jake McCarthy, and Pavin Smith, and prospect Dominic Fletcher poised to make his MLB debut next season. This young, athletic group allows the Diamondbacks the flexibility to use KLew in a DH-only role, and offers a path to regular playing time for him. While it’s sad to see the fan favorite KLew go, this is one of those trades that does right by the player, offering the former Rookie of the Year a chance to play as regularly as his body allows. We wish Kyle all the health and happiness in the world on his future journey.