Corey Seager followed up a sensational 2014 season by breaking out on the national stage in 2015, earning a late season call up and critical role in the Dodgers’ playoff efforts. The anticipation of Seager’s follow-up season has placed him at the top of many national prospect lists, with many predicting stardom for the current Dodger shortstop. Whether that stardom comes primarily at shortstop or third base might be the last major question Seager answers about his professional career, but that won’t come before he exhausts his prospect eligibility and leaves this list.
While my long personal looks at both Julio Urias and Jose De Leon lead to profiles that some readers might have considered bearish on their potential, let me be clear that the same will not be the case for Seager. Corey arguably has one of the best hit tools of any Drillers player I’ve seen through the Colorado years to the present Dodger affiliation. That list includes Troy Tulowitzki, and though I think Tulowitzki’s overall package as a prospect in Tulsa gives him the slight edge, Seager’s impact to the Dodgers offensive could rival Tulo’s contribution to the Rockies.
For an aggressive hitter, Seager has excellent pitch recognition. Seager likes to attack fastballs in the zone early, catching Double A pitchers off guard in the first month of the season that were just trying to establish footing in the Texas League. His propensity to attack fastballs continued at the major league level, but Seager’s exceptional pitch recognition helped him refrain from chasing too many balls out of the strike zone from more advanced pitching. While his walk rates were not significant at the minor league level, he won’t just be a free swinger at the major league level.
Corey Seager’s swing is one of controlled violence, taking a full cut on everything he offers at and doesn’t cheat himself by second guessing. Seager takes advantage of his 6’5 frame by striding out long and allowing his bat to travel through the zone for a long time. Additionally, his long arms allow for excellent plate coverage and makes him capable of driving balls on the outer half of the plate to all fields.
One suggestion I made after watching Seager a few times was that I might have underestimated his hit tool grade. To date, it’s a solid 70-grade tool with the potential to be an 80 hit tool in the future. Seager’s minor league spray charts suggest the ability to hit the ball with authority to all fields, making him a tougher candidate to shift on. He doesn’t have to sell out for power to drive the ball, and with his batting eye, has a shot to compete for batting titles in his prime.
Corey Seager’s power may not grow much beyond 30 home runs annually per season at the major league level, but is seems foolish to put a cap on such a gifted hitter with potential to still add bulk to his frame. As I mentioned, he doesn’t sell out for power, but he his swing stays consistently aggressive from swing to swing, slightly lofted and geared for line drives. As long as he stays as trimmed down to handle shortstop, Seager will more likely challenge the doubles leaderboard than the home run one.
As for staying at shortstop, Seager appears locked in to the position for at the least the next couple of seasons. With no internal threat to his claim to the role, Seager currently holds his own on the back of his hands and throwing. Seager has the necessary soft hands to play up the middle and wastes little motion on the turn at second or in throws from the hole. Seager’s arm strength is above average for the position, and his accuracy both stationary and on the run is better than you might expect from someone as long levered.
My question with Seager is his defensive range while he continues to fill out his frame. It’s presently passable, he can cover large swaths of ground while underway, though his first step quickness is no better than average. Another thing of note is that because of his size, I was often caught off guard with his footwork. I wouldn’t say that his footwork is sloppy or incorrect per se, but their might just be a mental processing hang up on my part watching someone as large as Seager attempt to perform the body contortions or control of someone half a foot smaller.
Perhaps this concern is a bias of sorts from years of watching smaller, quicker shortstops, but early defensive metrics on Seager’s professional debut suggest more average than exceptional. With the increase in shifting the Dodgers look likely to employ in 2016, these quick twitch/range concerns might be mitigated by better game planning. When he finally does need to shift to third base, Seager’s soft hands and arm strength should make him a plus defender at the position.
I hesitate to put too much expectations on a rookie, but Corey Seager is going to shoulder much of the offensive load for the Dodgers this season, but has the skills to hit third in the order right now as one of the most talented hitters in an underrated offense. Long term, Seager is obviously a heart-of-the-order stalwart and should be the face of the franchise in his prime. Should he hold his own defensively at shortstop, Seager could quite possibly be one of the most valuable players in the National League over the next five years.