Eager Seager

With a large number of highly touted minor league players making big league impacts this past season, two-thousand fifteen had proven itself as the ‘birthplace’ for the next new generation of baseball greats. And now, arguably the brightest spot in this new class of talent is set to emerge. Exactly seventeen clubs passed on Northwest Cabarrus High’s shortstop, Corey Seager, before he was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the eighteenth pick of the 2012 MLB draft—a decision that with the likely exceptions of the Astros, Twins and Nationals, many clubs profoundly regret. The youngest of three baseball brothers, this ‘little’ Seager hardly appears juvenile, standing 6’ 4’’ tall and weighing in at roughly 215 pounds. Many scouts across baseball feel as though the 21 year old may blossom into an elite talent on both sides of the ball.

In an era of loud, quirky and obnoxious swing-hitches, leg-kicks and upper cuts, Seager’s quiet and calm approach at the plate takes you back to time when a powerful swing appeared more composed. He combines a simple weight shift with a violent lower-half thrust that generates tremendous raw power. Even when he’s making outs, he squares pitches up where they are thrown and impacts the baseball with strength to all fields. Unlike his older brother Kyle, Corey has a much larger frame that projects to provide natural loft and carry upon contact as he continues to grow. He possesses a uniquely compact stroke for a player that combines a rare gift born of plus power, excellent bat control and good plate discipline. Additionally, his advanced approach in the batter’s box allows him to draw plenty of pitches and work deep into counts.

Seager has had the tendency to be a bit too aggressive in this mindset, at one time causing him to run into some strikeouts issues (most notably, he owned a 24.2% K rate through 38 games at Double-A Chattanooga), but during his rapid ascent this past season he was been able to make the compulsory adjustments to shorten his stroke with two strike strikes. Before he received the call, he’d lowered that rate to an minuscule 14% through 464 Triple-A plate appearances—an impressive feat for a position player who’s just at the threshold of tapping into his immense power potential. His walk rate still sat at a stubby 6.9%, which leaves a lot of growth in this this department, but this number does not indicate the full story. There’s a clear distinction between plate selectivity and BB rates.

After much hype and anticipation, Seager made his debut in Petco Park against the San Diego Padres on September third—and really made this September ‘tryout’ count. He slashed an outstanding .337/.425/.561 through 98 AB’s in 27 games, all while proving his patience at the dish drawing walks at a 12.4% clip and simultaneously setting a Dodger’s rookie record for safely reaching base. Seager grades with plus plate-selectivity aptitude and draws the right number of pitches to back those plate disciplinary assertions up. Furthermore, I believe as he continues to mature, he will begin to improve his ability to remove himself from the pressure of making contact deep into counts, thereby drawing more walks. His low walk rates and habitually dwarfed OBP-AVG numbers shouldn’t scare anyone off. Players of his caliber often make this mental adjustment later in their MiLB development, but given his ability to make quick, in-game modifications, I expect him to improve sooner rather than later and to become an elite offensive product.

On the defensive side of the ball, Seager has shown a strong overall aptitude to stick on the left side of the infield. While he can use some touch-up to certain aspects of his play, I believe he has the raw talent to become an above-average defender, whether that be at short or third. His strong, accurate arm coupled with his formidable first-step instincts and high baseball IQ certainly play at short, but he lacks the general speed and lateral quickness that most major league shortstops possess. Moreover his large frame with room to fill will only exacerbate his inability to make progress on these lateral agility tools, especially since we’ve already seen him struggle at times to both cover ground and make the routine play (a team leading 13 errors between AA & AAA this season). However we have seen larger shortstops with similar skill sets succeed at the hole, namely Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and even follow rookie-prospect Carlos Correa. Obviously given that shortstop has historically been one of the weakest offensive positions on the field due to its intense defensive demands, allowing Seager to stick at short would clearly maximize his value. However, regardless of his below-average horizontal agility and at times questionable routes to the baseball, his soft hands, rifle-arm and overall athleticism will allow him to succeed there if the Dodgers allow him to do so. When he made his debut, his glove actions were strong and he demonstrated solid footwork through the baseball when turning double play feeds, routine ground balls hit right at him, and a number of memorable awkward throws while on the run moving away from the bag.

There’s a chance he ends up at the hot corner given his size and potential for future growth, but the way the Dodgers used Seager in his short September stint with the big club may indicate that they see him just left of the second base bag in the future. Wherever he plays, look for Seager to be the cornerstone of a youthful Los Angeles Dodgers throughout the next decade in the NL West.

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