When Will it be Corey Seager Time?

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Corey Seager Signs with Dodgers Photo: Ben Platt/MLB.com

For most of the season, there has seemingly been one weak point in the Dodgers lineup.

When the Dodgers lost Hanley Ramirez to the Boston Red Sox, it was pretty much guaranteed that they wouldn’t be able to find another shortstop to match his offensive production. For all his defensive shortcomings, Ramirez was a bigtime bat in the middle of the order. If Ramirez was an average offensive shortstop, the Dodgers probably would have tried harder to bring him back. However, he was the worst defensive shortstop in baseball last year and is now the worst defensive left fielder in baseball.

Instead, the Dodgers brought in Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies. Rollins’ bat has been fading for a few years now, but his veteran presence and above average defense made him an appealing option for the Dodgers. Perhaps more importantly, Rollins was entering the final year of his contract, making him a perfect stopgap to get superprospect Corey Seager another year of seasoning in the minors before calling him up in 2017.

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This seemed like a good plan at the time, but Rollins got off to an insanely slow start this season. After a clutch home run on Opening Day, Rollins struggled hard and saw his batting average dip to as low as .162 on May 6. He’s been slowly getting better, as he has five multi-hit games in his last 10 starts. He currently has a career-low batting average and on-base percentage, and while his defense is still miles ahead of Ramirez’s, it would probably need to be at Andrelton Simmons-levels to please everybody.

To further complicate matters for Rollins, he has a 21-year-old phenom breathing down his neck at AAA. Seager was a consensus top-10 prospect headed into the season, and with his counterparts being called up or faltering in the minors, Seager is now the number one prospect on Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus and number two on MLB, behind Byron Buxton who has seen time in the majors.

Corey’s older brother, Kyle, is one of the few bright spots for a disappointing Seattle Mariners team that had world series aspirations this year. He’s a career .263 hitter, but has been a rock defensively and has hit 20 or more home runs in each of his four full seasons. And the Dodgers’ Seager is supposed to be better.

Corey has been great since being drafted 18th by the Dodgers in 2012. In four minor league seasons, Corey has a slashline of .309/.372/.528 with 58 home runs and 258 RBIs. Much like the Dodgers’ last top offensive prospect Joc Pederson, Seager does have a little hole in his swing. He has 293 strikeouts in his four seasons, and has struck out 56 times in 97 games in 2015. Despite that, Seager looks like the real deal and most analysts think he will be a star.

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Rollins’ recent hot streak has put the Seager talks on slight hold, but it’s becoming increasingly likely that Seager sees time at Dodger Stadium this year. At worst, Seager should be a September callup, much like Joc was last year. Joc was not good last September, registering four hits and 11 strikeouts in 28 official at-bats. He bounced back this year and even though he’s been slumping of late, Joc has has a pretty great rookie season and looks like a solid centerpiece for the Dodgers to build around long term.

The Dodgers have seemed adamant about keeping Seager at shortstop for the foreseeable future, but they are in the middle of a perfect opportunity to get Seager’s feet wet. He’s only played 15 of his 354 career minor league games at third base, but with Justin Turner‘s injury they definitely could have rolled the dice and let Seager handle third for 15 games, much like the Texas Rangers did with Joey Gallo when Adrian Beltre went on the DL. Gallo made it hard for the Rangers to send him down, so they kept him up.

Turner’s injury could have been Seager’s chance, but Alex Guerrero and Alberto Callaspo have been splitting reps at third. Seager’s defense can’t be worse than Guerrero’s, and Callaspo hasn’t brought a lot offensively or defensively. Surely, Seager couldn’t be a worse option than either of them.

There’s also an argument to take the approach that the Cubs took with Kris Bryant. Not only did they not call him up last September, but they kept him stashed in the minors for the first two weeks of this season, which bought them an extra year of team control. The counterpoint is that the Dodgers are rich, and if they feel like keeping Seager in seven years, they can throw unlimited cash at him. That argument may work with other teams that are on a tighter budget, but as long as the Guggenheim group is in charge of the Dodgers, I just don’t see them getting outbid for a player they really want.

Seager season is approaching, and it should come in September (maybe with a bonus Julio Urias). It’s an exciting time in Dodgerland and in all of baseball, where we’ve seen a rare influx of young talent all throughout this season. If Seager can be anything like Carlos Correa has been with the Houston Astros, the Dodgers should have their next franchise shortstop.

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