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40 in 40: The final piece to Taylor Trammell’s puzzle

Can a second stint at Driveline help solve Trammell’s contact issues?

Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

The jigsaw puzzle of Taylor Trammell’s career with the Mariners originated in 2020, and has been in the process of completion ever since. After its initial removal from the box, the puzzle was strewn across the table for years, with pieces slowly being put together over time. There are now only a few final pieces missing, and Trammell holds them in his hands. It is up to him when and how to complete his puzzle, and only then will he prove how beautiful of a picture it can create when it is finished.

Trammell was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds as a top prospect in 2016. His first few years in the minor leagues were consistent and productive, and were highlighted by his MVP award at the 2018 All-Star Futures Game, when Tramell was the Reds’ No. 3 prospect at the time. He was part of a big trade package to the San Diego Padres the next season, and landed with the Mariners the season after, in the deal that also acquired Ty France, Andrés Muñoz, and Luis Torrens.

Trammell made his major league debut with the Mariners on April 1st, 2021, playing center field. He walked twice, including once with the bases loaded, and recorded his first MLB RBI. He would go on to appear in 51 games with the Mariners during his rookie season and 43 games with the big league club in 2022, with inconsistencies at the plate starting to show its challenges for Trammell. During glimpses of his success, Trammell shined brightly on defense and showed his speed on the basepaths, with encouraging signs that he had all the tools for a promising MLB career.

He knew his hitting needed work, and he spent months improving his swing at Driveline during the 2022 offseason. Unfortunately, Trammell began the 2023 season on a rehab assignment in Triple-A Tacoma, after he broke his hand during a workout right before Spring Training. He was only with the Rainiers for eight games, where he got off to a very hot start. Trammell slashed .345/.429/.621, which equates to an OPS of 1.049. He had 10 hits, two home runs, and four RBIs over 35 plate appearances in his eight games before rejoining the big league club to make his season debut on April 30th.

Trammell quickly made his mark on the 2023 Mariners. His first big league at-bat of the season resulted in a massive first inning grand slam.

In the same game, he secured an impressive game-saving catch in left field that eventually helped the Mariners win 10-8 over the Toronto Blue Jays in extra innings.

During the next two months, Trammell played left field as part of a platoon with Jarred Kelenic and Sam Haggerty, and DH as part of a platoon with Teoscar Hernandez and AJ Pollock. Although he was an asset defensively, his offensive production trended downwards since his debut. In the month of May, Trammell only had five hits across 49 plate appearances, and was slashing .100/.232/.258. He was eventually optioned back to Tacoma on June 1st as a corresponding move to the selection of Mike Ford.

During his second stint with the Rainiers, Trammell clearly knew what his areas of improvement were, and worked himself back towards the offensive production he showed at the beginning of the season. He batted .242 over 37 games with the club, including an exceptional three-homer game on June 23rd, and great defensive plays as well.

After a month in Tacoma, Trammell was recalled once again on July 22nd when outfielder A.J. Pollock hit the 10-day IL with a strained hamstring. He was only with the big league club until Pollock recovered, and played in just two games before being sent back down to Tacoma on August 1st. Trammell had another productive two months with the Rainiers, but with the additions of infielder Josh Rojas and outfielder Dominic Canzone from the Arizona Diamondbacks, he remained with the Triple-A club until the end of the season.

Beginning the season with an injury, combined with all of his movement between clubs definitely showed its toll on Trammell, as his offensive struggles remained. His final major league stats of 2023 equated to a wRC+ of 79, a 39.3 K%, and a wOBA of .279 across 56 MLB plate appearances.

via FanGraphs

With most of his platoon-mates shipped off to new places, Trammell is positioned well for a much larger role with the team in 2024. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections of 2024 show significantly more plate appearances for him and predict improved numbers in almost every category. He is likely to remain in both the left field and DH platoons, and has a huge chance to solidify his spot on the big league club, especially with the current uncertainty for how the everyday outfield will look. Even with the newest additions of outfielders Mitch Haniger and Luke Raley, there will likely still be a platoon for the corner outfield positions due to the departure of Jarred Kelenic. Raley may play at times at first base, and Haniger’s playing time will be watched very closely to keep him healthy and injury-free.

Trammell must find a way to capitalize on these opportunities that will present themselves to him in 2024. He has already shown his commitment to the team and natural competitive drive, and expressed the importance of his “no fear” mentality on the field. After breaking his hand at the beginning of the 2023 season, Trammell’s first thought was, “I’ve just got to come back stronger. I just want to be a part of this team and just love it. I love all these guys,” he said. In the postgame interview after his season debut on April 30th, he conveyed how much the support of the team meant to him and how it fueled his impressive comeback from his injury.

In all of his trips to Tacoma last season, Trammell showed promise, and was quickly able to regain his confidence at the plate. However, he hasn’t been able to sustain that production during his time in the big leagues. Hitting is notoriously difficult for any player, and it’s unclear if his challenges are mechanics, mental, or both. In an effort to get down to the roots of his hitting struggles, Trammell returned to Driveline once again this offseason to focus on his mechanics and receive a personal assessment.

If he can transfer his success with the Rainiers to more of his big league appearances this coming season, he could become a force in the Mariners’ lineup. One of Trammell’s biggest areas of focus will be to remain confident and comfortable at the plate. His high strikeout rate, combined with a season on-base percentage of .286, are the areas that must be improved, especially considering the Mariners’ focus on increasing contact.

Trammell is poised for a break-out season, and I for one am rooting for him. His energy and positivity are contagious, and his love for the city and the team know no limits. The Mariners’ organization clearly has maintained its confidence in him, and he now holds his future in his own hands. If Trammell is able to regain his trust at the plate and overcome his hitting challenges, he will have found the final piece to his puzzle.