Just four days after turning twenty-one, Dodgers prospect Corey Seager is on his way to Oklahoma City after being promoted to Triple-A. Seager, the seventh-best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com and BaseballProspectus.com and the fifth-best according to Baseball America, has been dominant the first three weeks of the season playing for Double-A Tulsa after showing similar dominance last season in the final 38 games after being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga.
Seager’s .345/.381/.534 line in Chattanooga was excellent, especially for a player who was 4.5 years younger than the average player in the league, but he stepped up his game even more in 2015, batting .375/.407/.675 with 13 extra-base hits in 20 games for the Drillers. He now heads to the Pacific Coast League, where the average age is 26.8 years old.
Seager, the younger brother of Seattle Mariners all-star third baseman Kyle Seager, has played mostly shortstop in the minors. Many have speculated that he will eventually shift to third base because of his size — he is 6’4″ and 215 pounds and will probably add another 10-20 pounds as he fills out — but according to the Dodgers, such a switch is not a foregone conclusion. After Seager played third base for the first time in his career two weeks ago, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com texted Dodgers farm director Gabe Kapler and asked if that signified a permanent switch.
“Corey is an athlete. He can play anywhere on the diamond. In general, we want our men to think of themselves as baseball players rather than labeling themselves in any way. That said, Seager can unequivocally play shortstop and third base. He’s a pro. Exposure to multiple positions can only help our players.”
Seager’s path to the big leagues is unclear regardless of his position. The Dodgers have Juan Uribe at third base and Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, and while both have gotten off to slow starts this season — Uribe is hitting .278/.316/.370 even with his current 11-game hitting streak, and Rollins is scuffling at .185/.280/.333 — both are proven veterans who seem likely to improve at least some. And even if both Uribe and Rollins continue to struggle, the Dodgers have Alex Guerrero and Justin Turner ready to step in from the Major League bench. It might take an injury to get Seager to the big leagues before September, but given the ages and histories of the players in his way, that is not out of the question.
Seager’s path after this season is more clear. Uribe, Rollins, and second baseman Howie Kendrick are all in the final year of their contracts, with Seager, Guerrero, and recent Cuban signee Hector Olivera waiting in the wings to take over the three positions. Olivera is a second baseman; Guerrero was a shortstop in Cuba, was signed by the Dodgers as a second baseman, and has played some left field, but third base seems the most likely landing spot for the defensively challenged slugger. That leaves shortstop for Seager, who looks to match Cal Ripken Jr. as the tallest shortstop in big league history.
“Without a putting a giant X on his back, he’s more like a Ripken to me, as far as being the big shortstop that doesn’t really profile there but has great hands, great awareness, really good clock as far as calmness and knowing the timing. At the plate, he’s more like a little bit of a [John] Olerud, if you really watch him. He’s quiet. He’s a big guy with a small swing.”
Seager has hit everywhere he has played, and his defense has always been good enough to stick at shortstop. The Dodgers ran Hanley Ramirez out at shortstop more than 250 times from 2012-14, so they are familiar with the concept of a shortstop’s offense making up for some defensive shortcomings. Seager’s defense will probably end up falling somewhere between Ripken and Ramirez, but unless injuries in the Majors change the plans, it seems likely that he will at least begin his career as a shortstop.
The only question is when.
You can follow Jeff J. Snider on Twitter at @snidog.