It’s taken him four-plus years and three organizations, but Taylor Trammell is now a big leaguer. While that might seem like a long time and a circuitous route, the outfielder -- currently ranked No. 97 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list -- made his big league debut last week at age 23. Had he gone on to Georgia Tech, he would have been a college draftee in 2019 who made it to the big leagues in less than two years.
That context is important because to some, Trammell hasn’t quite played up to his projected tools. Taken originally by the Reds at the start of the Competitive Balance Round A, he received a well-over-slot bonus of $3.2 million to sign. He was a two-sport star in the Georgia high school ranks, but had decided to focus only on baseball had he gone on to Georgia Tech.
Because of that dual-sport focus, there was an assumption Trammell was the raw, toolsy type who might need time at the lower levels to turn his potential into production. He initially showed what can happen when one assumes by hitting .303/.374/.421 during his pro debut, showing a much better feel for hitting and a more advanced approach than anticipated. It continued during his first full season, a year some felt he’d have to spend at a short-season stop, but instead he spent it in the Class A Midwest League. Trammell batted .281/.368/.450 with 47 extra-base hits and 41 stolen bases in 2017. He drew 71 walks that year and his 13 homers might not seem like a ton, but ask anyone about hitting for power in Dayton, the Reds’ affiliate at that level, and you’ll get a different perspective.
He jumped up to No. 43 on the 2018 preseason Top 100 list to begin a run of four straight ranked seasons, peaking at No. 16 prior to 2019 after a solid showing in the High-A Florida State League and more than holding his own in the Arizona Fall League.
Skeptics point out the numbers weren’t eye-popping with an .819 OPS in 2017 and .781 in 2018. But he was super young and not in great hitting environments. His star faded a bit in 2019, when he jumped to Double-A in the Reds system and had a .686 OPS in 94 games before he was traded for the first time, heading to the Padres as part of a wild three-team deadline deal that included the Indians. His overall numbers with San Diego weren’t great, but he had a huge postseason run and looked like he was finding his footing again.
The 2020 shutdown came, and like with so many young players, he didn’t get a chance to play. But he started to have the feel of a good -- if not an impact -- player, the kind often in play for trades. He has value, but he isn’t untouchable. And sure enough, he was on the move again last year, coming to the Mariners on Aug. 31.
A huge spring (.311/.392/.644) in his first real action as a Mariner landed him a spot on the Opening Day roster and his skills have come in handy, especially with Kyle Lewis’ injury to start the year. In his early days with the Reds, Trammell was described as someone who could handle center field, but would likely slide over to left if there was a better option on the roster. He was slated to be the left fielder with Lewis in center, but when the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year was sidelined, Trammell was asked to play up the middle once again. He has the speed and instincts to handle playing there as long as the Mariners need him to, knowing he’s very capable of above-average defense in left. (He’s not as good a fit for right because of his fringy -- at best -- arm.)
Trammell’s speed will be an asset on both sides of the ball. He hasn’t come close to the 40-plus steals he had in that first full season, but he’s nabbed at least 20 in all four of his pro seasons, including that shorter debut summer. He’s a smart baserunner who will maximize that part of his game.
The big question is just what kind of impact Trammell will have offensively. He still has that solid overall approach and will continue to draw walks and has plenty of bat speed. He’ll have to avoid getting too pull-happy or selling out for power, with the key being selectively aggressive at the plate. When he doesn’t try to do too much, he can impact the baseball. The power will come and even if it ends up being average at best, he still has the chance to hit for average, draw walks and contribute 15 or so homers annually while playing solid defense in left, or center as needed.
It’s funny to say this about someone who was once thought to be raw, outplayed that evaluation early, before seemingly slowing down and watching his star presumably fade, but patience is still needed here. He doesn’t turn 24 until September, so there’s plenty of time for him to figure things out at the big league level and come close to reaching the high-ceiling label put on him when he first entered pro ball.