Cooper Hummel is coming home to the Seattle Mariners

In between spicier strikes like buying and selling for Teoscar Hernández from their slain Wild Card foe, signing Trevor Gott, and buying Kolten Wong from the Brewers, the Mariners made a smaller swap on November seventeenth, sending former Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis to Arizona. Although Lewis climbed again to the bigs amid one other injury-wracked 12 months – bashing a homer off of Justin Verlander in the course of – it was clear his agility was nowhere close to his scintillating 2020, and a foul hunch in the second half led to his opting to Tacoma, the place he completed the season and did not see the playoffs – a giant bummer for a participant who many thought can be a key a part of ending the drought. I, for one, will root for Ok-Lew irrespective of the place he winds up, and the hitter-friendly confines of Chase Field might assist him regain a few of that former magic.

Despite these unhappy emotions, the return caught my eye. In the one-for-one swap, Seattle obtained again Cooper Hummel, who broke into the huge leagues in 2022 at age 27. Drafted by Milwaukee as an 18th-rounder in 2016, the switch-hitter steadily climbed via their farm, and by no means posted decrease than a 117 wRC+ at any cease apart from first 35 professional video games in Rookie ball – all whereas being round in step with the common age of each stage. He broke into the minor leagues as a catcher, however took up an outfielder’s glove in 2018, and did not spend a single sport behind the dish in 2019 with Double-A Biloxi.

After COVID claimed the minor league season in 2020, he opened 2021 in Triple-A Nashville, the place he continued to rake over 46 video games and placing up a stroll charge of practically 25% (!!!), and was traded to the D’ Backs close to the deadline alongside minor league utility man Alberto Ciprian for Eduardo Escobar, cracking their Opening Day roster final 12 months. It’s unattainable for me to see this profession arc and never take into consideration Mitch Haniger just a bit bit – Mitch debuted a bit youthful and was a first-round decide whereas Hummel’s minor league numbers had been somewhat gaudier, however each gamers had been drafted by Milwaukee, traded to Arizona, then shipped to Seattle.

Unfortunately, whereas Haniger’s debut obtained off to a good begin earlier than exploding with the M’s in 2017, Hummel’s first style of massive league motion did not go so nice. While he obtained his first huge league homer out of the approach in his fourth profession sport, he slashed simply .171/.282/.295 in 149 journeys to the plate throughout 49 video games via the first half of the season, and paired a 65 wRC+ with a Ok-rate north of 30% – though the stroll charge was nicely into double-digits if you happen to’re on the lookout for silver linings. Used largely as a left fielder or DH, he was optioned again to Reno on July eleventh, however did come again a month later, and completed the 12 months on the huge league roster.

Hummel’s second stint in MLB wasn’t a lot better at the plate: the sturdy stroll charge evaporated over 52 plate appearances, however he did notch extra extra-base hits than singles (4 doubles and a dinger). The factor that was totally different this time round, although, was that he was solely used behind the plate all through his fourteen begins, save for a pair pinch-hitting appearances. He had caught a handful of video games with each Nashville and Reno, however this stretch of appearances was the most time he spent catching since he was in High-A. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hummel’s protection didn’t wow. His framing left one thing to be desired, he let 9 wild pitches get by him in simply 118.1 innings, and he surrendered seven stolen bases with out thwarting anyone. Yikes!

There’s some hope right here, nonetheless – from his time in the outfield, Statcast ranked him in the 92nd percentile in arm power, simply the greatest defensive software he confirmed. In a brief stint in the AFL, he as soon as once more labored solely at catcher, and figures to proceed that transition again in the spring and past. With correct footwork and enchancment on a median pop time, we might see that huge arm come into play extra usually. He additionally noticed a pair performs at the plate, like this relay to maintain onto a tie towards Milwaukee, and he does all the things proper right here.

Obviously, Hummel has some obstacles to clear earlier than seeing any vital time catching with the M’s. Cal Raleigh ran away with the beginning job final 12 months and ought to be entrenched there for no less than the subsequent few seasons, and Tom Murphy is slotted in as the backup after recovering from shoulder surgical procedure. The Mariners’ entrance workplace has spoken extremely of him recently, although, with Jerry Dipoto hinting that he might see a while at DH. Hummel does have a pair of minor league choices remaining, and with him and Taylor Trammell set to duke it out for the final bench spot this spring, it would not be a shock to see him start the 12 months in Tacoma to proceed enhancing his work behind the plate.

Despite usually being forgotten when recapping the Mariners’ offseason to date, there’s sufficient Cooper Hummel brings to be value keeping track of. He’s accomplished nothing however hit all via the minors – his most exit velocity of only a hair beneath 111 MPH was additionally good for the 71st percentile in MLB – and any time a catcher can play a place apart from first base, it is ripe for intrigue. Hummel additionally grew up in the Pacific Northwest: born and raised in the Portland space, he was drafted out of the University of Portland, and the M’s had been his favourite workforce rising up. He, like all of us, was definitely stoked practically a decade in the past.

Hummel might not make a right away splash together with his hometown workforce, however he ought to get his probabilities to showcase his robust plate self-discipline and budding sport energy over the course of the lengthy season. And hey, it is virtually at all times rather a lot simpler to root for the native child.

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