There are a few positions on the Dodgers that are anchored down for this season and next. There are two positions that look to be anchored down for a decade or longer: first base and shortstop.
While Cody Bellinger has first base all but locked up for as long as he wishes to be a Los Angeles Dodger, shortstop is equally anchored by Corey Seager.
Seager has been the Golden Child of the organization since he was selected by the Dodgers with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft.
When then-manager Don Mattingly chose Seager to start over veteran Jimmy Rollins in Game 1 of the 2015 National League Championship Series against the New York Mets, it signaled the beginning of a new era in L.A.
Seager batted .337 with four home runs and 17 runs batted in in only 27 September games that year, but the pressures of post-season baseball may have gotten to the then-21-year-old as he batted a mere .188 with no home runs and no RBIs in the Dodgers’ five-game series loss.
No matter. Seager had been entrenched as the shortstop of the present and the future, claiming the Dodgers’ 17th Rookie of the Year Award in 2016.
In his two full big league seasons, Seager has averaged 24 home runs and 75 RBIs, while missing 22 games the past two seasons.
Late last season, Seager indicated he might need elbow surgery during the off-season. Instead, he chose rehab therapy, and it appears he’ll be 100 percent when position players report to spring training later this week.
As if the elbow wasn’t bad enough last season, Seager was left off the NLCS roster against the Cubs with a balky back that was described as a muscular injury.
That was a blow to the Dodgers and their fans. Seager was a machine last season, slashing .295/.375/.479 with 33 doubles hitting mostly out of the two hole.
Seager appeared in his second All-Star game and won his second Silver Slugger Award in 2017, and Fangraphs is projecting Seager to hit .289/.361/.492 in 2018 with about 25 homers and 80 RBIs, which keeps him in elite Major League company among shortstops.
Defensively, Seager has yet to prove he cannot play shortstop. He was ninth in the majors in fielding percentage last season at .979 (only .001 behind defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons) while committing 11 errors in 520 total chances.
Some day, Seager may, indeed, move permanently to third base, but that won’t happen until some time after the 2020 season when Justin Turner’s current contract expires.
The Dodgers’ current depth chart shows Kike Hernandez as the backup to Seager at shortstop. Hernandez played every position except pitcher and catcher last season, so his versatility is his most valuable asset as a player.
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Hernandez played 24 games at shortstop in 2017, including 16 starts. Entering his age 26 season, he had 11 home runs and 37 RBIs while batting .215 in 297 at-bats over 140 games.
His 2018 projections are for double-digit home runs and 40-plus RBIs, again providing true value in a bench player.
In a pinch, Chris Taylor could play shortstop in 2018. He made 14 appearances there in 2017, including ten starts. The only way he’ll see extended time in the infield this season will be through extenuating circumstances, such as injuries to Forsythe and Seager at the same time.
Looking into the future, the Dodgers have a few shortstops on their Top 30 prospects list who might one day call Dodger Stadium home: Gavin Lux (No. 9 prospect), Omar Estevez (13), Drew Jackson (17), Ronny Brito (21), Errol Robinson (28), and Jake Peter (30).
Of that group, Lux appears to be the closest to the Majors as a shortstop, with a projected arrival date of 2020 (just when Seager could move to third).
Still, in A ball, Lux was mainly an offensive second baseman but has improved his defensive skills to the point where he could become a full-time shortstop with 12-15 home run power.
Estevez may arrive in the Majors before Lux, but his main position will more likely be second base. A signee out of Cuba as a 16-year-old in 2015, Estevez projects as a Howie Kendrick-type player.
Jackson’s lack of offensive prowess by today’s standards will probably keep him in the minors longer than the Dodgers might hope. Robinson, on the other hand, has the bat that could be his ticket to the Majors, but it’s his glove that will keep him there.
No matter what happens, barring injury, Corey Seager will be the shortstop this Opening Day and next, and for as long as the Dodgers can hope.