The Mariners are trying to fight their way out of the bottom-third of Major League Baseball following a rough month of May, and there are signs both positive and negative right now.
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On the one hand, the Mariners have won three of their last five, with two of those wins coming against the American League West-leading Houston Astros. On the other hand, a 9-2 Wednesday loss with Robbie Ray on the mound to a 22-30 Baltimore Orioles team didn’t look great for a M’s squad that needs to go on a run.
The outfield is a microcosm of where the Mariners stand right now. Rookie center fielder Julio Rodríguez has looked right at home hitting third in the lineup, but Seattle is feeling the effects of missing Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger due to injury. And then on the corners, the M’s again have something promising and something worrisome. On the good side, the 24-year-old Taylor Trammell has looked great in eight games since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. On the other, 28-year-old All-Star Jesse Winker is still struggling to get out of a season-long funk.
On Thursday’s Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports Station, the Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations shared his insight on those two players.
A new Taylor Trammell?
Entering Thursday’s series finale in Baltimore, Trammell has hit 7 for 21 (.333) with a home run, four doubles, and three walks to five strikeouts in eight games with Seattle. A small sample, absolutely, but Dipoto is seeing things that have him hoping it’s the start of something big for the athletic and powerful outfielder.
“TT is doing things that he’s not done as a big leaguer, and frankly that he is now just starting to adapt to,” Dipoto said. “(Wednesday) night you saw him hit a double in the left-center field gap. I don’t remember ever really seeing that as a big league player from Taylor. The night before he stayed inside a ball off a left-hand pitcher and hit a rocket low liner that skip-hopped the shortstop. The shortstop roughly made the play, but (Trammell) is getting on top of that high pitch and driving it to the opposite field in ways that he never has.”
Trammell began the 2021 season on the Mariners’ roster after a torrid spring to make his MLB debut, but in 51 games he had a slash line of just .160/.256/.359. And while his eight homers were helpful, he struck out 75 times to 17 walks, which was the biggest reason he settled in Triple-A from midseason on. A 2016 first-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds and a former top prospect, though, Trammell is exhibiting signs of further development so far in this stint with the M’s.
“He’s making the adjustments that young players make,” Dipoto said. “We do live in a society that wants to see it ‘now,’ and 23 year olds getting their first exposure to the big leagues and not doing it ‘right now,’ that’s a story as long as time. And 24 year olds who learned a lesson and came back and they’re a little better for it, also something that is not uncommon. I just think you’re seeing Taylor grow, and I would like to believe that he can take this and run with it.
“I don’t think you’re gonna see Taylor Trammell go out and OPS 1.000 or 1.100 for the year or hit .360, but you are seeing a young player who’s making the adjustments and getting better, and that’s a pretty gratifying thing for a team with young players who are as athletic and and high-character as Taylor is, because he can be a really big contributor for us.”
Winker’s tough arrival with Mariners
Now for the flip side.
Winker was the biggest offensive acquisition this offseason for the Mariners, as the lefty swinger had a reputation as one of the best hitters against right-handed pitching in the game. His bat has yet to find his groove since he came to Seattle in a trade with the Reds early on in spring training, however. He has a .209/.311/.282 slash line with just two homers, and his OPS+ is 78, meaning he’s 22% below league average in the statistic.
A rough start out of the gate may have resulted in Winker pressing and prolonging his slump.
“I think Jesse’s trying to figure out the transition into a new ballpark, a new team,” Dipoto said. “(The trade) was, you know, I don’t want to say a disruptive moment – I think he was excited and remains excited to come to the Mariners, but obviously the first two months of season haven’t gone (as planned ).”
Dipoto is confident that Winker, who slashed .305/.394/.556 with 24 homers in 110 games last season, will find his way back to production more in line with his career numbers.
“He’s got a tremendous track record. He’s irrefutably been an excellent major league hitter through the course of his career. A lot of guys, when they come in (to a new team) they feel the weight of expectation, and I think we see that with some of our guys frankly that aren’t performing on par with their career norms, and Jesse’s one of them. Players are human and they put a lot of pressure on themselves to deliver.
“If you walk in the door and the expectation is that you’re the guy who’s carrying the .880 or .900 career OPS, and you’ve been awesome against right-hand pitching your entire career, and you were an All-Star , the MLB Network Shredder has you as the No. 1 left fielder in baseball, and you get off to a rough start, which he did, you start putting a lot of pressure on yourself to bring it back. And that’s tough to overcome.”
What’s the path out?
“Usually what you see is those players, the way they get out of it is just by letting go of the wheel and taking a breath and letting things happen,” Dipoto said. “And hopefully Jesse gets to that point because I do think he has put a tremendous amount of pressure on himself to be that player instead of just being the best Jesse Winker he can be every day. I’m sure he’s going to get back to it. There’s no reason at 28 years old that he’s no longer going to be the player that he’s always been. He will recover. It would be nice if it started sooner than later, but he will recover.”
You can listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below.
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