Tyler Lawrence France
Height: 5'11" Weight: 217
Bats/Throws: Right / Right
Born: 07/13/1994 in Downey, California
College: San Diego State University
Acquired: In trade from the San Diego Padres, with Luis Torrens, Taylor Trammel, and Andres Muñoz, for Austin Nola, Dan Altavilla, and Austin Adams (08/30/2020)
Salary: Not available
MLB Debut: 04/26/2019
Free Agent after: 2025 season
Last August's big trade with San Diego could go down as one of GM Jerry Dipoto's best moves. On a team whose trade history includes some real turkeys (Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb, anyone?), it's pretty sweet to be on the other side of the equation; getting France from the Padres might well be one of the biggest "gets" in the history of the Mariners franchise.
France went to college at San Diego State, where the baseball coach was none other than Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Though he might have expected some sort of magic touch, France said Gwynn was a bit less inspiring oratory, a bit more nuts and bolts. “You show up that first day and all that he says is, ‘Get in position and take your best swing,’” France said. “You’re like, ‘What? I’m going to need more than that. You have to help me. I came here for you to make me great and this is all you’re telling me?’” He relates the story with a smile, going on to explain that Gwynn's words ended up having a broader lesson in them. “When you think about hitting, the simpler you can make it, the easier it is,” France said. “That was his way of simplifying hitting for me. And you know what? To this day, I still think that: Get in position and take a good swing.”
The advice served him well in college and in the minor leagues, culminating with a Triple-A season that saw him bat .399 for El Paso (admittedly, a hitter's park) in 2019 and earn him a callup to the Padres. The success didn't immediately translate to the Majors (he hit just .234 in San Diego that year), but he adjusted quickly. In last year's mini-season, France posted an impressive .305/.368/.468 line between the Padres and Mariners and was absolutely who you wanted at the plate in a clutch situation: With runners aboard, France hit .386/.456/.486, and that number just got better when runners were in scoring position (.442/.489/.558). Yes, 2020 is not representative of an actual season and those stats should be taken with a few grains of salt, but there's no question that France personifies the term "professional hitter."
Looking ahead, France figures to be Seattle's third baseman of the future. He'll see time there as well as at first and second base this season to spell the regulars, but for now he'll get most of his at-bats as the designated hitter.