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40 in 25: Taylor Trammell

The best is yet to come.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

When Taylor Trammell came over from San Diego in the summer of 2020, he was supposed to be the darling of the deal. Sure, he had lost some prospect shine from his Cincy days, as Kate noted in her initial profile of him when he came over. Even still, there was plenty of hype around his acquisition and surprise that the M’s were able to acquire him for Austin Nola.

Fast-forward to 2022 and Trammell is an afterthought among the fanbase. The M’s outfield is stacked with proven producers (Jesse Winker, Mitch Haniger) and talented youngsters (Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodríguez, Kyle Lewis) that seemingly squeeze Trammell out of the mix. This is especially true given that evaluators say Trammell likely profiles as a corner outfielder while the organization desperately needs someone in center — however it is clear the organization views him as a potential center fielder.

But are we too quick to write Trammell off after a bad 2021?

Let’s play everyone’s favorite game. Here are a couple of Seattle Mariners players from the 2021 season.

Player A vs. Player B

Player Games Played Triple Slash wRC+ fWAR
Player Games Played Triple Slash wRC+ fWAR
Player A 51 .160/.256/.359 73 -0.1
Player B 93 .181/.265/.350 73 -0.7

You guessed it, Player A is in fact Trammell! How did you know? Oh? Because we’ve been talking about him? Oops. Guess I gave that one away. Well, I’ll let you know that Player B is one Mr. Kelenic. Neither of these guys had seasons to remember in 2021. But it’s pretty astonishing how similar these players were in terms of pure results last year.

In spite of that, the prevailing feeling from fans this offseason has been pretty positive regarding Kelenic while being pretty negative, if not outright forgetful, regarding Trammell. Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison to make given that Trammell had nearly twice Kelenic’s strikeout rate in the big leagues, a less juicy scouting report, and no monster month of September to end the season on.

Because of that, we’re going to drop the comparisons here. But I just wanted to set the stage for my main argument: why aren’t we giving Trammell the benefit of the doubt after a short, crummy stint in the big leagues?

Trammell broke camp with Seattle in 2021 after an impressive spring training stint. His initial month in the big leagues did not go well, as he hit .157/.255/.337 with a 43% strikeout rate. He absolutely lit Tacoma on fire upon his demotion by hitting .384/.413/.726 during the month of May, prompting another call-up to Seattle.

The Mariners gave Trammell a full-time job again but he showed no real change from his first cup of coffee, slashing .164/.256/.384 with a 41% strikeout rate before being sent down to Tacoma for good.

His final line in Tacoma was a respectable .263/.362/.456 (104 wRC+) with 12 homers and a 12.4% walk rate against a 22.9% strikeout rate. Much of that is buoyed by his strong first stint; he hit .219/.346/.358 during his second trip to Tacoma.

Part of his issue was his inability to hit anything with spin. Out of the 103 curveballs he saw In the big leagues, he got exactly 0 hits and whiffed at half of them.

Chart of Taylor Trammell’s stats vs. different pitches in 2021
Taylor Trammell vs. different pitch types
Baseball Savant

Clearly, he had trouble against most advanced pitches. We don’t have this specific data on his minor league time, but given that he had just an 81 wRC+ in his second stint down there it seems likely that additional seasoning in Tacoma would benefit him so he can adjust to higher-level pitching.

Trammell is still firmly in that “post-hype sleeper” territory. He’s younger than Evan White, Abraham Toro, Cal Raleigh, and Logan Gilbert, all of whom we still hold onto hope for their eventual evolution into steady contributors.

It should be noted that the Jesse Winker acquisition may hold some hope in terms of finding Trammell playing time, should he earn it. Winker, as Mikey noted, cannot hit lefties. But even though he’s a left-handed hitter, Trammell has had reverse platoon splits during his time in the minors.

Taylor Trammell vs. L & vs. R in Minors

Year Level OPS vs. L (AB) OPS vs. R. (AB)
Year Level OPS vs. L (AB) OPS vs. R. (AB)
2017 A .717 (144) .860 (347)
2018 A+ .810 (126) .767 (271)
2019 AA .864 (116) .626 (320)
2021 AAA 1.051 (74) .734 (200)

Whether this is just a quirk of sample size or something predictive, we’ll have to see. But if this trend sustains throughout his transition to the majors, he could earn himself that short side of the platoon in left field.

What Trammell has to do next is the hardest part. He has to take his lower minors successes and translate it to higher-level pitching, where’s already struggled to this point. He also has to do it in an organization that isn’t exactly making room for him on the big league roster. Still, a pathway to being a solid bench bat is certainly still there, with the potential for much more if he can make clear improvements to his contact skills.

This, from Fangraphs last year while he was still eligible for their prospect lists, remains prescient.

“Trammell brings a lot to the table and is likely to be a good role-playing outfielder even though his struggles with contact, which ultimately led to him falling out of the Top 100, feel scary after his month-long big league trial. Remember that he was once a 60 FV prospect on here, one who looked like a shockingly polished low-minors hitter with an old school leadoff man’s skillset. I simply don’t think he was seeing a high concentration of big league velocity at that time, and a significant weakness went unexposed until Trammell began to face upper-level competition and his performance changed. The skills foundation that made him a former top prospect remains: Trammell sees a lot of pitches and should run above-average OBPs, he runs well, and will either end up playing a viable center field, or a dynamic left field.”

The fruit wasn’t quite ripe enough in 2021. That’s OK! If nothing else, Trammell is an incredibly easy guy to root for and the Mariners Fun Differential would be greatly padded any time he’s on the roster.