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Commentary: Mariners prospect Taylor Trammell makes good first impression, but where will he fit in crowded outfield?

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 12, 2020

Taylor Trammell helped Amarillo win the Texas League title last season.  (Gregory Bull)
Taylor Trammell helped Amarillo win the Texas League title last season. (Gregory Bull)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

TACOMA – Mariners prospect Taylor Trammell wanted to have some fun with his new general manager. When Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto called Taylor to welcome him to the organization earlier in the week, he pretended like he had no idea he’d been traded from San Diego.

That made Dipoto laugh, but Taylor wouldn’t have cared if he didn’t.

“People are like, ‘You’re not that funny,’ ” Trammell said Wednesday on a Zoom video call. “I’m like, ‘I think I’m funny.’ So that’s all that matters.”

Talk to Trammell for a while and he’ll likely spawn several chuckles. What Mariners fans hope, though, is that his play will spawn even more smiles. When Seattle traded catcher Austin Nola, among other players, to the Padres on Sunday, Trammell was the headline of the haul. MLB Pipeline ranks the 22-year-old outfielder as the No. 59 prospect in baseball and now No. 6 for the Mariners.

What does this mean for Seattle? For one, that its outfield likely has Dipoto in a constant state of anticipation.

Kyle Lewis, 25, has been the primary reason to watch Mariners games this season. Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, meanwhile, are the top two prospects in the organization. Heralded as Trammell may be, he is the underdog for future big league playing time among the four. Motivation?

“Absolutely,” said Trammell, who went 1 for 3 with a single in an intrasquad game Wednesday at Cheney Stadium. “So I look at it like this: Those guys are going to make me better, and in return I’m gonna make those guys better. I mean, my main objective is to win.”

In 126 games in Double-A last year, Trammell hit .234 with 10 home runs and an OPS of .689. Decent numbers for a prospect, but still plenty of room for growth. Trammell said Padres hitting coach Johnny Washington helped him decrease his hand movement and use his hips more efficiently. They worked on maximizing power with every swing. But perhaps Washington’s biggest contribution was his candor. His observation?

“You’re a big dude that plays small,” said Trammell, who has also stolen 110 bases in 426 minor league games. “That hit hard with me, because he was one of the first people to be honest with me about it. I’m 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. I need to be hitting the ball very hard.”

But Trammell said that if you watched him over the past month you’d see a different force at the plate. This, in his opinion, is the best his swing has felt. It’s unfortunate that he won’t get the same quality of at-bats that he would have pre-COVID-19, but that’s the reality. Like most players on the lower levels, he’s making the best with what he has.

Speaking of quality at-bats, his highest-quality one likely came in his last minor league game. Playing for the Texas League title against Tulsa, Trammell hit a grand slam in the top of the ninth to put his Amarillo Sod Poodles ahead 5-3. The team tacked on three more runs to win 8-3 en route to the title, giving Trammell an early taste of being in the spotlight.

“Those are the moments that build you up. If I would have struck out that time, that would have made me better, but I ended up hitting a grand slam, and that made me better,” Trammell said. “The lights are flashing, the camera is on you, and everybody around the world is looking at you. It’s those moments that are going to build you up.”

The lights aren’t that bright for Trammell yet, and the cameras, for now, will be sparse. But few in the organization doubt the potential.

In a 25-minute media session Wednesday, Trammell established himself as a talker. Now we find out if he’s a doer, too.

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