Scouting the Mariners’ Return for Austin Nola by Eric Longenhagen August 31, 2020 Sunday’s seven-player deal between the Mariners and Padres was the deadline’s biggest trade so far, impacting this year’s playoff race and both teams’ roster construction for years to come. While the most immediate effects will be seen in San Diego, the Mariners continued to collect talented, young players with their spyglass fixed on a long-term rebuild by acquiring Taylor Trammell, Ty France, Andres Muñoz and Luis Torrens (covered here) in a trade centered around catcher Austin Nola. The headline prospect of the package is Trammell, a 23-year-old 50 FV prospect (meaning I expect him to be a an everyday player who generates around 2 to 2.5 annual WAR — commensurate with a good everyday player — over the course of his pre-free agency seasons) who was with San Diego’s big league club throughout spring training, then played during summer camp intrasquads, and has since been at the Padres’ alternate training site at the University of San Diego. Trammell spent all of 2019 at Double-A, albeit with two different orgs because he was also part of last year’s massive, three-team Trevor Bauer deadline deal that sent Trammell from Cincinnati to San Diego; Seattle is his third organization in 13 months. Trammell is ranked toward the top of the 50 FV tier of prospects, 68th in all of baseball, because a) he’s fairly close to the big leagues and b) he has a few core attributes that I consider especially important. Chiefly, Trammell has a good idea of the strike zone, and he’s a good athlete who has good on-field makeup/competitiveness. I know the latter two sound hokey and perhaps antiquated, but they do drive some of my thinking related to prospect floor or certainty because, anecdotally, I think good athletes who try hard tend to turn into good players. A career .270/.363/.406 hitter, Trammell has the ball/strike recognition (12% career walk rate) and contact potential to one day be a leadoff man. I say contact potential because I don’t think his bat is quite as polished as it appeared to be at the lower levels. He’s a short-levered hitter who can turn on pitches on the inner third of the plate, and he grinds out long, tough at-bats, but while Trammell has some all-fields spray ability, he struggled with velocity up and away from him during the spring and summer intrasquads. To my eye, he has done some tinkering with his hitting footwork, which may have been an attempt to tease out more in-game power, though I’m skeptical that will ever be part of the profile. I think a contact/on base-oriented approach fits best with Trammell’s swing and physical ability, though admittedly punting on his power potential (those Futures Game rockets he hit a few years ago were highly unusual) caps his ceiling. It’s tough to be an impact player without thump, which is part of why I have a solid regular FV on Trammell rather than a big, star-level one. Defensively, I have Trammell projected in left field because of what I think is a problematic lack of arm strength based on my looks at him in Arizona, but this spring he told the media that was something he had been working to remedy, and I have no idea where that part of his game is at right now. I still have him projected in left field for the moment, but think he could be a very special corner defender because of his speed/range. To touch on the load-bearing aspects of the profile again, Trammell sees a lot of pitches and gets on base, has gap power, can really run, and could be a superlative corner defender. The Reader’s Digest comp is Brett Gardner, but even though Trammell hit no worse than .277 at any stop during his first three pro seasons and hit .375/.423/.583 during the 2020 spring, I think his swing and approach to contact need refinement if he’s going to hit enough to lead off. Seattle got another splashy young player in 21-year-old Andres Muñoz, a power two-pitch reliever with an arm action like Craig Kimbrel’s whose fastball was parked at 99 and touched 103 mph last year. Muñoz made his major league debut last year as a 20-year-old and struck out 30 batters in 23 innings with the Padres. The first of the many 2020 Padres pitching injuries that would eventually necessitate all these trades, Muñoz made one spring appearance (his velocity had been trending down throughout last year) before having Tommy John in late March. He likely won’t be back until late in the 2021 season, and perhaps not until 2022. As Mariners fans know after watching Thyago Vieira come and go very quickly, a closer cannot live on velocity alone. Luckily Muñoz has a power, two-plane breaking ball in the mid-80s that he improved his feel for locating competitively throughout last season. The combination of elite velocity and a plus secondary pitch give Muñoz late-inning ceiling, assuming all is well coming out of rehab. And finally, the Mariners added Ty France, who was blocked by several well-established veterans in San Diego and could not find regular playing time. France was a 34th rounder out of San Diego State, a bit of a whiff by the amateur arm of the scouting industry since France was on a good college team that played well at a heavily-scouted Regionals just ahead of the draft. France hit but did not produce much power during his first two pro seasons, then started to slug as he reached the upper-levels, something that was initially discounted because of his age and the hitting environment at some of San Diego’s upper-level affiliates. He became so dominant (.399/.477/.770 at Triple-A in 2019) that it was impossible not to give him a shot, even though Manny Machado was playing third base in the big leagues. The Padres experimented with him at second base late last summer, but France didn’t improve enough to prevent San Diego from acquiring Jurickson Profar in the offseason, and now Jake Cronenworth has seized control of that position. I like France’s hit/power combination enough that I think he’ll be a valuable role player, though he’s a relatively free swinger who is only capable of playing positions (1B/3B) that typically require better on base ability to be considered an average or better regular. And it’s not as if he isn’t also blocked in Seattle, at least for now. Evan White already has an extension and is locked in at first base. A resurgent Kyle Seager would certainly help some contenders, but his 2022 club option becomes a player option if he’s dealt, and that’s a barrier. Dylan Moore is playing well, and in acquiring Trammell, the Mariners officially have a crowded, upper-level outfield picture with Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Jake Fraley, and others either fighting for playing time in T-Mobile, or warming at the team’s camp site. The universal DH certainly bolstered France’s value, and he could share short-term platoon at-bats with José Marmolejos at DH, and spell Seager and the corner outfielders against the occasional lefty. Let’s take a step back and look at the Mariners intermediate future. They have the glut of young outfield prospects mentioned above in addition to Moore and the injured Mitch Haniger, who is signed through 2022. Both Haniger and Tom Murphy, who is now part of an upper-level catching contingent that includes Luis Torrens and Cal Raleigh, are interesting trade chips for the near future. Evan White is locked in at first, as is J.P. Crawford at short, who looks like an above-average regular on the strength of his glove and on base skills. The jury is still out on Shed Long Jr., who has not hit in just 75 big league plate appearances, but will have to soon because he isn’t a good defensive second baseman. I think we’ll start to see the younger relief prospects (the big arms, like Juan Then, Muñoz, Sam Delaplane) and true rotation cornerstones (Emerson Hancock, Logan Gilbert, maybe George Kirby) start to debut next year, with the starters coming a little later. There is going to be attrition due to injury and failure, especially on the pitching side, so Seattle will need to find a way to build continuous depth behind the ones who do pan out.