Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager has had a slow recovery from an elbow injury that lingered at the end of the 2017 season.
With the team and Seager opting for rest and rehabilitation instead of surgery in the offseason, a huge question looms over Camelback Ranch: what if the elbow flares up and sidelines Corey for most, if not all, of the 2018 season?
Corey Seager trying to tough out an elbow injury right now reminded me of last spring when another fan favorite suffered from a similar ailment. That didn’t end well at all. Adrian Gonzalez battled elbow inflammation early in the spring and continued to work through it before deciding to rest it for a couple of weeks in March.
Seager came back to start the season, seemingly good to go, only to finally succumb to the elbow pain. On Cinco De Mayo 2017, AGon took his trip to the disabled list; sadly it was the beginning of an injury-plagued season for him. Yes, Seager is 12 years younger than AGon, which makes a world of a difference for injury healing, but still, elbow injuries are nothing to mess with.
When Seager went down with the elbow injury in the playoffs last season, Charlie Culberson filled in very well. His defense was good, and he had a lot of success at the plate (8-16 with four extra-base hits). But, nobody is gonna hit .500 for the season and Culberson isn’t even on the team anymore, he was the attractive piece shipped to Atlanta in the Matt Kemp trade. Kike Hernandez is a career splits guy (way better vs. LHP) who won’t consistently contribute offensively if given the full-time job.
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Utility infielder Donovan Solano has a decent glove, but is anemic with the bat. 2016 first round pick Gavin Lux is far from ready for the show. One intriguing option that is probably a long shot, is Kyle Farmer. He played short at the University of Georgia before the Dodgers converted him to catcher in 2013. I cannot see the front office chasing a starting shortstop via trade. So, the most obvious answer is 2017 breakout stud Chris Taylor.
Who will bat second?
While there is little to no drop-off defensively if CT-3 is the everyday shortstop, the two-hole in the batting lineup will have a huge void with no Seager. During the 2017 playoffs sans Corey, Manager Dave Roberts used Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger to bat second. Neither are ideal fits for that slot again, their big bats are needed in the higher RBI opportunity slots (3rd, 4th, or 5th). Typically, a player with strong on-base skills and good speed fits in best after the leadoff guy.
Outfielders Andrew Toles (.365 OBP in 2017) and Alex Verdugo (career .379 OBP in the minors) fit that bill if they are counted on for regular at-bats. There is no guarantee Verdugo breaks camp with the big club and Matt Kemp is making a strong case for playing time in left field with a monster spring showing so far. The second spot will surely be fluid until Roberts finds someone who sticks.
Show must go on
While every single roster spot is replaceable, the talent of 23-year-old shortstop Corey Seager cannot be replaced by anyone on the current roster. Unanimous 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, two-time Silver Slugger and All-Star, and second runner-up for NL MVP, among other accolades, makes Corey already so decorated in his young career.
Roberts will surely use his genius to shuffle players to fill-in should Seager’s elbow hinder him this year and beyond. But how effective will the replacements be? Of course, I would never wish anything bad on any player ever, but I wonder why nobody is really talking about this real possibility of Seager’s elbow not being anywhere near 100% like we are being led on to believe.
I don’t even want to begin to think what the worst-case scenario could mean long term too. Next week will be the first real test as he will ramp up his workload and is scheduled to play on the field for the first time this spring. All eyes should be on Corey, and everyone should be crossing their fingers that he stays healthy, as he is a vital piece to another World Series run in 2018.