Trammell offers unique perspective on ‘rushing’ players to bigs

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Alan Trammell works with Dixon Machado in spring training last month.

Lakeland, Fla. – The Tigers, like every organization in baseball at this time of year, are having constant internal debate over where their top prospects should start the season.

For players like Joe Jimenez, Michael Fulmer, JaCoby Jones, Wynton Bernard, Dominic Ficociello, Mike Gerber and others, the questions are the same: Are we rushing them? Are we pushing them through the system too fast? Would it be best to let them develop at a lower level a little longer?

Alan Trammell, as one of general manager Al Avila’s special assistants, is in on those debates. And he offers a very unique perspective.

“They rushed me,” he said. “Obviously, with the organization at that time is was allowed because at the big-league level we weren’t that good. But there was a bunch of us that they earmarked to move quickly. They pushed us through and it worked.”

Trammell and Lou Whitaker went from Double-A ball to the big leagues in 1978. Tom Brookens, Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Dave Rozema and Dan Petry were on a similarly accelerated track to the big leagues.

They have a 1984 World Series ring among the souvenirs of their travails.

“My point is, the good ones come fast,” Trammell said. “When you challenge somebody, they might not dominate, but they hold their own and they get better and it can help. We are always worried about doing too much and hurting these guys.

Tigers debate over Fulmer reminiscent of Zumaya in '06

“I get it. But I think back to our group and we came quick and sometimes it works.”

Trammell admits, though, that it’s a tougher call now with all that is invested in prospects and the increased scrutiny and pressure on an organization’s top draft picks.

“It’s a really touchy subject,” he said. “But we are always talking about, ‘Well, we rushed him and we hurt him.’ I understand that. But I’m thinking, ‘I’m glad they rushed me.’ I came at 19 and I stayed.”

Last season, the Indians, Astros and Twins all did a lot of hand-wringing over whether it was time to bring up Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Miguel Sano, respectively. The results would suggest they were ready to make the jump.

“I am thinking of Atlanta,” Trammell said. “Two years in a row – they took Freddie Freeman right out of spring training and they said, ‘I’m not worrying about that.’ Jason Heyward, same thing. So, yeah, I understand all these things – when is the right time and all that. But Atlanta decided they were the best option.

“Now, would you say they made the right decision? Absolutely they did.”

Tigers send Jimenez, three others to minor league camp

The Braves also brought shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the big leagues from Double-A without regret.

But, as Trammell pointed out, there are plenty of top prospects who were rushed to the big leagues and flopped.

“You just don’t know what’s in here,” Trammell said, point to his heart. “The failure part, how do they handle the failure? Because normally through high school and college, there is little failure for these guys. They’ve pretty much dominated. Here you are going to fail. And you really don’t know until they go through the adversity, the stinking and whether or not they will go home and have the ability to mentally figure it out.

“And that’s part of my job now. I am one of the guys looking and making that evaluation. And it’s hard.”

But Trammell stands by this: There’s nothing wrong with challenging players and testing the limits of their talent.

Twitter @cmccosky