Might wanna wait for this one
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Whoo boy, with all of the prospect lists coming out (baseball america, baseball prospectus, mlb.com), people are really starting to get excited. For the first time in a long long long time, the Dodgers have a top 20 infield prospect that has reached the high minors. The last guy who came close to hitting that mark was probably Dee Gordon, and the reports coming out about Corey Seager are way shinier than Dee’s were.
Basically, the Dodgers have a top 3 SS/3b prospect in all of baseball that is likely going to start his career at a future position of need. Unlike Joc Pederson, the discussions regarding his callup are going to focus around how ready he is, not necessarily how do they get rid of a particular player they don’t want.
Seager turns 21 years old in late April and has already racked up 161 PA’s in AA. Those plate appearances were excellent too, as he mashed to the tune of a .915 OPS and 154 wRC+. His .423 wOBA ranked 4th in the Southern League, sandwiched right between newly acquired Dodger prospects, Austin Barnes (.429) and Shawn Zarraga (.420) (Scott Schebler ranked 6th). So he’s headed right back to the very place he crushed the ball last season, if all goes well he will continue to crush the baseball and be promoted…
It’s a really anticlimactic thing to say, but there are a few reasons why Seager probably shouldn’t see the majors until September.
Firstly, the front office isn’t betting on him succeeding right away. This isn’t to say that Seager won’t destroy the Southern League, and break on through to the majors, but the possibility that he struggles isn’t out of the question. Lets consider Seager’s 2014 season in AA. In addition to only having a limited amount of numbers to look at, he needs to improve his Walk to Strikeout ratio. Seager’s BB-K ratio sat at an abysmal 0.26 in AA, take that how you will. It’s possible that it’s small sample size noise and he really did hit the daylights out of the ball, it’s possible that the the walk rate is a abnormally low, and his strikeout rate isn’t going to look like the going forward because he’s too good a hitter, but it’s just as likely that it’s him showing some weaknesses to higher level pitching for the first time.
Plate discipline is essential to a player’s success, and last year showed it, there just aren’t a lot of players that manage to be good hitters with K/BB’s below 0.30. Seager struggled to find his footing during his first taste of the Cal League, those 160 plate appearances weren’t anything near bad. Hell, he crushed the ball to the tune of a .915 OPS and ranked 4th in that league in wOBA, his season wasn’t terrible, far from it but in order for him to continue to destroy the ball like he was, Seager is either going to have to adjust and be more selective at the plate for his long term benefit, or manage to carry a .345 batting average with those plate discipline numbers, which is a near impossibility.
There’s also the idea that the players already on the roster are really good. The nice thing about having this type of front office is the planning that went into this roster construction, Jimmy Rollins is good enough to start on the NL West favorites, but is only under contract for next season. Darwin Barney, Enrique Hernandez, and Justin Turner are acceptable enough backup type SS’s for a team to throw out there for 300 PA’s if Jimmy Rollins gets injured along the way (as 36 year old SS’s are prone to do). Only a couple scenarios would allow Seager to be called up before roster expansion in my opinion, and that is Seager hits relentlessly at Tulsa, Rollins’ performance slips, and the backups are just “okay” [the good scenario]. OR Rollins gets hurt, Hernandez/Barney/Turner approach 2013 Luis Cruz/Dee Gordon/Jerry Hairston/Elian Herrera [nightmarish scenario], and Seager is just the least bad of the 4 options. Ideally, Rollins would be good enough to start and let Seager develop, but there is a possibility that doesn’t happen.
What’s really going to separate this discussion is when we look at the service time dilemma. This is a handy definition of arbitration and how it works. Basically it’s the rules for the players who have under 6 seasons of service time. As soon as a player hits 6 years of service time, he is eligible to hit free agency the subsequent offseason. For example, Ross Detwiler comes into the 2015 season with a little over 5 years of major league service time, meaning that he has spent 5 years and 2 days on a major league team’s 25 man roster and/or Disabled List. The disabled list is important because you can still earn service time while on on that list, and once a player runs out of his 3 option years, he is forced to stay on the major league roster or be designated for assignment from the club. So in Detwiler’s case, because he’s out of options, and because he was tendered a contract, he is expected to hit free agency this upcoming offseason. Detwiler will be 29 once free agency hits, so he is young for a potential free agent, even so, his free agency was delayed because he spent all of 2008 in the minor leagues, but he was called up at age 21. You’ll note, that 21 is how old Seager will be in late April of this upcoming season, and assuming he gets called up sometime before September, that will put him on track to hit free agency at the ripe old age of 27 years old.
This isn’t to say that Seager won’t sign an extension to make this service time discussion moot, but assuming an extension is a foolish thing to do, just because the Dodgers don’t have spending limitations doesn’t mean the Dodgers are able to sign any player they want to a team friendly deal because contrary to popular belief, all prospects aren’t Evan Longoria (playing wise, or extension wise). Considering there are at least 4 names above Seager on the depth chart right now, considering that Seager might not be ready and still has work to do in AA before we take his promotion discussion seriously, and considering that it would take the absolute worst case scenario for this front office to trade 28/29 year old Corey Seager for 21 year old Corey Seager, I find it highly unlikely that Seager is called up before September, I hope it’s highly unlikely that Seager is called up before September.