Countless Seattle Mariners tried their hand at leading off in 2020, could Taylor Trammell be the long term answer?
The Seattle Mariners didn’t quite have a revolving door at the top of the order last season, but to say the club did not have a leadoff hitter would be an understatement. After Shed Long got the opening day nod in the leadoff role, J.P. Crawford actually led off the vast majority of games last year. Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty also had a go at the leadoff role in 2020.
Those four averaged a .312 OBP in last year’s 60 game sprint. That is not an acceptable figure for the top of the lineup, as you would like to see your leadoff hitter as someone who looks to extend their at-bats and takes their walks every time. A leadoff hitter doesn’t have to be someone with a sky-high batting average or 60 stolen bases in today’s game.
The ideal leadoff is someone with speed who can work the count and make the starting pitcher throw a lot of pitches in that key first at-bat, and can get on base at a very high rate. This sets a tone and makes the middle of the lineup more dangerous, as that leadoff hitter is already on base, maybe even in scoring position.
Enter 23-year-old Taylor Trammell. He arrived in Seattle as part of the package the M’s received from the Padres a day before the deadline this last year in the Austin Nola trade. Trammell was drafted by the Reds in the competitive balance round A of the first round (35th overall) after playing high school ball in Kennesaw, Georgia, about an hour west of Kyle Lewis and Snellville. In only 61 games in rookie ball in 2016, Trammell stole 24 bases to go with a .371 OBP and a 22% line drive percentage. He showed the ability to truly use all fields from the left side, ending the season with a 37.4 Pull%/26.3 Cent%/36.3 Oppo% line.
Trammell’s success continued into the 2017 season at Single-A, where he got on base at a .368 clip. Trammell began to display some potent fly-ball power, going deep 13 times with 10 triples and a nearly 20% increase in his fly ball percentage in 129 games. Not to mention he stole 41 bags as well. This five-tool output led to national attention heading Trammell’s way. Major League Baseball had him slotted as their #43 overall prospect heading into his age 20 season.
2018 was a big year for Taylor Trammell. He saw the ball very well in 110 games at high-A, posting a .375 OBP with a 12.6 BB% to go with 25 more steals. His fly ball percentage went down slightly, but his line drive percentage rose close to 3% as he began to make more consistently solid contact. Trammell slashed 8 home runs and 19 doubles on his way to a berth in the All-Star Futures Game. Trammell put on a show that night in the nation’s capital, going 2/2 with a long home run and a triple off the top of the wall in the deepest part of Nationals Park. His performance earned him the MVP honors for the game.
Going into the 2019 campaign Trammell was ranked as high as the #11 overall prospect in baseball. He made his double-A debut that year, and similar to his fellow Georgian Kyle Lewis, he struggled to find his footing at that level. His walk rate dipped as his strikeout rate rose to 24.8%. Trammell’s slash line fell to .234/.340/.349. Despite all this, he was named to the All-Star Futures game once again, going 1/2 with an RBI single and would have stolen home if replay review was installed in the Futures Game.
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Taylor Trammell’s 2019 was nothing to hang your hat on. But double-A is a big jump talent-wise from single-A, and not to forget he was traded at the deadline by the Reds to San Diego. Considering he made the jump and also went from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Amarillo, Texas with a whole new set of teammates and coaches to befriend, Trammell had a lot on his plate in 2019.
There is quite the argument for optimism, however. Taylor Trammell managed to slug 10 home runs still with 20 stolen bases all while playing an athletic center field. Trammell had a lot of downtime in the last year to work on his craft and approach at the plate, so who’s to say his numbers will not return to his 2018 level. He is now a part of an organization that puts a major emphasis on speed and a selectively-aggressive approach. This will do nothing but good for Trammell and his future with the Seattle Mariners.
But the jury is still out on his ability to be a future leadoff cog. He has shown a very good approach for a while now in the Minor Leagues, with some consistent pop and an ability to play all three outfield spots. At 6’2 213, Trammell is much bigger than your typical leadoff hitter, but he truly has plus speed and is an outstanding baserunner. This spring will be monumental for Trammell and his odds at filling the leadoff role for the Mariners in 2021. He is already on the 40-man roster, and if he shows this spring that he is back to his 2018 form, then Trammell and his A+ personality will more than likely crack the opening day roster.
I believe that Taylor Trammell has all the tools necessary to be a game-changing leadoff hitter for the Seattle Mariners in the future. It all bodes on him bouncing back from a lost 2020 Minor League season and having a good spring training, which with his MLB-ready approach and speed is very possible if not likely in 2021.