Dodgers 2016 Season Previews: Corey Seager

October 8, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager (5) takes batting practice during workouts before game one of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
October 8, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager (5) takes batting practice during workouts before game one of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Today we look at what to expect in 2016 for baseball’s hottest prospect, shortstop Corey Seager.

We’ve been hearing his name since 2012, and for good reason; the Dodgers’ Corey Seager can play some baseball. Last September, fans got a tantalizing glimpse of the future when the young shortstop was called up to the majors, but that was just a preview. Now we finally get to see how he performs over the course of a full season against the most talented baseball players in the world. SPOILER ALERT: I’m predicting success.

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2015 Recap

Corey Seager started the 2015 season by absolutely destroying Double-A pitching. In 20 games for Tulsa, Seager slashed .375/.407/.675, proving why he was widely considered the Dodgers’ top prospect and earning himself an early call-up to AAA Oklahoma City. After the promotion, Seager cooled off a little bit, going on to slash .278/.332/.451 in his next 105 games for the Oklahoma City Dodgers. While certainly below his career averages, those are still really good numbers for a shortstop prospect, especially one who was more than five years younger than the average player in his league. Despite the slight drop-off in performance, the Dodgers chose call him up to provide some depth for their injury-depleted infield.

You know what happened next.

Ok for those of you who were living under a rock last September, or subscribe to DirecTV, heres what happened.

Corey Seager exploded onto the Major League scene late in 2015, setting a Dodgers record by reaching base safely in each of his first nine at-bats. He would go on to have an OBP of .568 with a .733 slugging percentage in his first 37 plate appearances. Obviously, that kind of production is unsustainable, but those are some fun numbers to look at. Seager would cool down a little bit from then on out, putting up a modest .337/.425/.561 with a .986 OPS by the end the season.

Those are actually awesome numbers (for those of you who think that “sarcasm” is the pit that Pat Haden imagines he’s throwing money into when he’s pays the more than $30 million in damages that former USC coach Steve Sarkisian is demanding for wrongful termination.)

Seager would also reach base safely in 24 of his first 25 starts. As a rookie, thats the kind of start that you want. After his historic September, the Dodgers decided to allow Seager to start in the postseason ahead of veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins. He would go on to slash .118/.235/.250 in five NLDS contests against the New York Mets. Those are bad numbers but it’s also an absolutely minuscule sample size. So which version of Corey Seager should fans expect in 2016?

2016 Role and Steamer Projections

In 2016, the Dodgers will hand over the reins of the shortstop position to 21-year-old Corey Seager. Seager will enter the season with unbelievably high expectations, considering the show he put on in September. But as much fans might believe in his talent and ability, the guy is barely over the legal drinking age. Lets not go all “D’Angelo Russell” on him if he doesn’t immediately light the world on fire. His season is bound to have both peaks and valleys and while there’s every reason to expect great things, some amount of patience might be required for a guy as young as he is.

Steamer projects Seager to hit .265/.315/.423 with 17 home runs and a WAR of 2.9. While I’m all for tempered expectations, those projections seem a little bit bearish. Throughout his minor league journey Seager has been praised largely for his hit tool but, if Steamer is correct, Seager will post the lowest batting average over a full season of any stop in his professional career. From everything that has been said about Seager, he possesses a precociously advanced feel for hitting and an ability to adjust so, despite it being his first full season with the Dodgers, I suspect he will outperform his Steamer projection.

What Could Go Wrong?

I think the main worry surrounding Seager is how he will cope defensively. When the new front office took over about a year ago, much was made of their desire to have an excellent fielding defense to support the pitching staff. The Dodgers, for the most part, lived up to those expectations last year. And while by all accounts he possesses excellent hands and great instincts at the shortstop position, questions linger about Seager’s range. One unpleasant possibility is that he vindicates all those people who wanted him to move to 3rd base throughout his career.

Another concern I’ve heard mentioned is that he might suffer a Joc Pederson-like slump at some point during the season but I don’t really see that happening. For one thing, Seager’s swing isn’t as power-oriented as Pederson’s so it’s unlikely he would have as much trouble making contact. Expect the bat to more or less be ready.

What Could Go Right?

Well, Seager could prove that his amazing September wasn’t an illusion and continue to dominate Major League pitching on a consistent basis. I wouldn’t hate that. The more likely outcome is that those numbers come down to earth somewhat, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still have a great season. I would predict an impressive offensive season for the rookie.

Another possibility is that he outperforms his perceived defensive shortcomings to become a solid MLB shortstop for the Dodgers. If that happens, then the rest of the league is in trouble because Seager seems destined to become an offensive behemoth. If the defense remotely catches up to the offense then expect Seager to be a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate, rivaling the likes of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. But like I said, lets put too much pressure on the kid.