Written by: Ray Butler
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If you’ve been following @Prospects365 on Twitter for long, you’re well aware of my adoration of Ronald Acuna. I think he’s a superstar who will soon be one of the faces of the MLB, yes. But as you know, my love goes much further than what he can do on a baseball field.
Ronald Acuna was the first prospect I ever took a chance on.
Let me explain.
I haven’t been evaluating prospects long. I began dabbling before the 2016 season but didn’t get serious with the hobby until the winter and spring prior to last season.
In my first attempt at a prospect list last preseason, I ranked Acuna 42nd. It may seem silly now, but at the time, it was risky. Acuna had very little game experience and had just missed a large portion of the 2016 season with a thumb injury.
After a quick review of more than fifteen 2016 preseason prospect lists, only Keith Law, ZiPS, and Baseball Prospectus ranked Acuna higher than my ranking of 42nd (he was unranked by many industry lists, including MLB.com’s top 100). Here’s what I wrote about the Venezuelan then:
“Acuna Matata! One of the best kept secrets in the minor leagues, 2017 should be Acuna’s official welcoming party. A thumb injury cost him a lot of playing time last season, but Acuna has all the tools to be a five-tool contributor when he’s healthy. Only 19, Acuna could see time at AA Mississippi before the end of the 2017 season.”
And what a welcoming party it was.
In layman’s terms, I “stuck my neck out” on Acuna. I hyped him as often as I could on Twitter. I drafted him with my first pick in my fantasy league’s draft prior to last season. I did everything I could to ensure that my baseball followers knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was ALL-IN on the Braves’ young star, risking my credibility along the way.
Now, I’m all in on Taylor Trammell.
Look. Chasing a good feeling often leads to pain. Expecting any prospect to replicate Acuna’s .325/.374/.522, 21 HR, 82 RBI, 44 SB 2017 season AT 19 YEARS OLD is simply unrealistic. We may chase Acuna’s 2017 performance for the rest of our lives and never see a season quite like it. So, let’s not. Let me go ahead and get this out of the way now: TAYLOR TRAMMELL IS NOT RONALD ACUNA. Get that notion out of your head.
What if you were asked to find a player who shares a lot of the same traits that Acuna possessed prior to last season? A player who ranks comfortably outside of the top 20 on industry prospect lists, possesses elite athleticism, has displayed an above average combination of power and speed, has the frame to continually developing physically, and has been remarkably younger than the professional competition they’ve played against?
You’d find Taylor Trammell.
Now, I know I’m not the only baseball mind in the world who thinks Trammell will break out during the 2018 season. He’s a more highly-rated prospect on most industry lists than Acuna was this time last season. The Georgia native is actually a decently popular pick to become an elite prospect sooner rather than later. That actually scares me to some extent, but I hope to offer several research-based thoughts as to why I believe Trammell is destined for the limelight.
For some, Trammell is already a decently-popular name because his performance in Low-A Dayton last season was ridiculously underrated: .281/.368/.450, 13 HR, 77 RBI, 80 R, 41 SB, 12.4 BB%, 21.5 K%, .370 wOBA, 131 wRC+– all while being more than two years younger (Trammell turned 20 in September) than the average player age in the Midwest League.
(Highlight video courtesy of MLB.com)
Before being drafted by the Reds in the first round of the 2016 draft, Trammell was destined to be a multi-sport (baseball and football) student athlete at Georgia Tech. At 6’2 195 pounds, Trammell has an athletic frame that still has PLENTY of projection remaining.
And that may be my favorite thing about him.
If I take a risk on a prospect (from a ranking or fantasy baseball standpoint), it’ll always be on a plus athlete. Trammell may be a plus-plus athlete. Now consider that Trammell surpassed 10 HRs and 40 SBs in his first full professional season? As a 19 year old? Yes, please. Here’s what ESPN’s Keith Law had to say about Trammell in the latest edition of his top 100 prospect list:
Now…. according to an interview published last season on MiLB.com, Trammell spent last offseason attempting to elevate the ball more often at the plate, which is an encouraging sign for any baseball player who wants to see their “raw power in BP” translate to the playing field. That, paired with increased physical development, led to an ISO increase from .118 in 2016 to .169 last season (along with a FB% increase from 24.4% to 42.1%). When you consider that Trammell’s HR/FB was only 8.5% in 2017 (an increase from 5.0% in 2016, 9.5% is considered average), it’s certainly logical to assume there’s plenty of room for a natural, continued progression in the power department, especially as Trammell finishes filling out physically. At 20 years old, barring injury, he should maintain upper echelon speed for the foreseeable future.
Salivating yet? Allow me to temporarily damper your excitement. The Reds are (seemingly) nowhere near contending, so they can afford (as Law said in his write up) to allow Trammell to fully develop in the minor leagues before considering a big league call up. Heck, just as he played in Low-A for the entirety of 2017, it’s certainly possible that Trammell spends the entirety of the 2018 season in High-A Daytona.
And that’s okay.
Don’t draft Taylor Trammell if you’re an impatient fantasy baseball player. Don’t draft Taylor Trammell if you’re expecting a substantial or notable big league impact before the 2020 season. Don’t draft Taylor Trammell because you need him to be *your version of* Ronald Acuna and anything less would be considered a failure. If he exceeds both the lofty expectations and a 2020 ETA? It’ll be a bonus. Let it be a bonus and not an expectation.
That being said, I’m excited.
I’m excited because I think Trammell will hit for more power this season. I’m excited because I think Trammell will hit for more power this season while maintaining (if not exceeding) the .281 AVG and .368 OBP he posted last season.
Now consider the fact that he should steal anywhere from 30-40 bases.
Now consider the fact that he’ll do all of this while being three years younger than the average-aged player in the Florida State League.
My official (and realistic) projection for Taylor Trammell’s 2018 season: .285 AVG, .375 OBP, 18 HR, 85 RBI, 85 R, 35 SB. That dog will hunt, right?
Furthermore, I think Trammell eventually has the chance to be a 20 HR/30 SB big leaguer. That’s special, and it’ll certainly be reflected in my top 200 prospect list. He’s got a long way to go, sure. There’s a lot of developing left to do, and prospect progression is rarely linear. But it’s hard to look at the peripherals, the pedigree, and the tape and not be absolutely ECSTATIC about Trammell’s outlook– especially when you can draft him in your fantasy league RIGHT NOW without using a premium draft pick. The spectacularly high ceiling, paired with a relatively high floor (thanks to an acceptable K% and BB% and the fact that speed doesn’t sleep), makes Trammell one of the most polarizing minor league players in all of baseball.
You have a chance to claim a front row seat on a hype train that may be fully occupied by the All Star break.
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Featured image courtesy of the Marietta Daily Journal