LOS ANGELES — It is not easy to make an 18th overall pick in a Major League Baseball draft look like a steal. But that is what Corey Seager is doing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a smooth first full season in the big leagues.
The 22-year-old Seager, selected by the Dodgers in the first round in 2012, has looked like a seasoned veteran while posting a .296 batting average with a .357 on-base percentage and a .561 slugging mark heading into play Saturday. He had 17 home runs with 41 RBIs and recently put together the second-longest hitting streak for a Dodgers rookie at 19 games. He was one shy of Tommy Davis’ team record of 20 games.
Seager could justifiably be considered the National League’s best option for the starting shortstop in Tuesday’s All-Star Game at San Diego. Instead, that honor went to the Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell in fan balloting. While solid, Russell’s .235/.330/.406 season does not compare to Seager’s right now. Seager earned his All-Star reserve nod through the players’ vote.
The top pick in that 2012 draft just happened to be shortstop Carlos Correa, a young cornerstone for the quickly rising Houston Astros.
That 2012 shortstop-heavy draft did not just include Correa, Russell and Seager. Drafted ahead of Seager at No. 12 overall was Gavin Cecchini, now batting .325 at Triple-A Las Vegas.
As ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield pointed out in his profile detailing the rise of the Cleveland Indians’ Francisco Lindor, the new era of young shortstops has been impressive. Writes Schoenfield:
We’re in a golden age of young shortstops, with Lindor, Correa, Xander Bogaerts and rookie Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers regarded as this generation’s Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada (with Addison Russell and Trevor Story a notch behind those four). They can all hit. But it’s Lindor’s defense that may end up separating him from the other three. According to defensive runs saved, the other three aren’t in the same league:
Note the plus rating for Seager’s defense. For all of his noted prowess at shortstop, another position has always been projected for the 6-foot-4, 215-pound middle infielder. This was Baseball America’s report on Seager in advance of the 2012 draft:
The younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, Corey has been on scouts’ radar for a couple of years, but he started moving up draft boards this spring. He has a big, physical frame at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds with plenty of strength. He plays shortstop now and is a good defender, but scouts see him shifting to third base as a pro, where he could provide above-average defense. A left-handed hitter, he has a simple swing and can go the other way with power. The game comes easy to him and scouts find it easy to see his upside, considering his brother was a third-round pick out of North Carolina and made the big leagues after just 279 minor league at-bats. The younger Seager has a strong commitment to South Carolina, but is likely to be picked in the first round.
This past June, the Dodgers drafted another shortstop with their first-round pick, Gavin Lux out of Indian Trail Academy in Wisconsin. Following Seager’s path to the major leagues, Lux could be in Los Angeles by 2020. Perhaps at that time Seager could slide over to third base with his power fully developed and defensive wrinkles ironed out, like backhanding balls and throwing to first base while moving toward the third-base foul line.
For now, though, the Dodgers are in no rush to make a change. Seager has shown a veteran’s calm both in the field and especially at the plate. He has even been invited to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby, even though his swing is more hit-to-all-fields than muscle up and put one over the fence.
Baltimore Orioles’ Mark Trumbo in the first round, Seager was completely modest. “I’m in trouble,” he said.
No worries. Seager is ready to embrace all the All-Star Game has to offer. This one belongs to him, though he got a peek at how it all works in 2014 when he played in the Futures Game at Minnesota and the stuck around to watch his brother Kyle pay for the American League.
“It was awesome,” Seager said. “It was really fun for me in the Futures Game, and then [Kyle] showed up, and it was really fun. I kind of got to go in on their lunches and stuff like that, so you got to see everybody.
“I was a little shy and really didn’t introduce myself to as many people as I would have liked to, but that’s OK. It was really cool to experience. [Derek] Jeter’s last All-Star Game too, so that was awesome.”
Seager regrets never saying hello to his hero Jeter. Maybe Jeter will be watching the festivities in San Diego next week and Seager can show the Yankees great what he is all about.