Corey Seager burst onto the scene in 2015, hitting .337/.425/.561 over 27 games. His tremendous performance over the last month of the 2015 season led to him earning the starting shortstop role for the playoffs where manager Don Mattingly entrusted the young lefty to hit in the three spot over Adrian Gonzalez. Seager’s debut resulted in him starting the 2016 season as the Dodgers’ starting shortstop, and the expectations are sky high. After a relatively rough April, for his standards at least, Seager has really gotten back on track showing why he is a favorite for rookie of the year.
Seager’s early struggles at the plate began to bring some expectations down to earth, but his May performance has been a far better illustration of the type of player the young lefty truly is. Last month, Seager hit an impressive .301/.352/.540, while slugging seven home runs to propel him over Joc Pederson for the team lead in big flies entering June. Heading into the middle part of the season, Seager has recorded a solid slash line of .278/.333/.474 with nine home runs and 27 runs batted in. Even though these numbers are tremendous for most 22-year-old shortstops in their first full season, Seager is only just beginning to show just how good he really is. The shortstop’s slow start brings down his overall offensive production for the season, but according to Fangraphs, he is still ranked as the seventh best shortstop in the majors in terms of offensive production. However, when analyzing Seager just for his performance in May, he ranked third in that category behind only Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado. While his May performance was excellent as this ranking illustrates, the young shortstop appears to still have noticeable room for improvement. For the season, Seager’s BABIP is only .302—40 points lower than the three players above him. In May, his BABIP increased to a typical level of .329 (the same as his career BABIP) and, unsurprisingly, so did his average. May proved that Seager is bound to start getting a little more luck on the balls he puts in play, only increasing his offensive numbers as the season wears on. Seager is not just going to continue improving because of luck, however. The Dodger prodigy has increased his line drive rate by 3.2% over last season, while also improving his contact rate by 2.2% and decreasing his swinging strike rate by 0.7%. With that in mind, it’s easy to forget that he hit .337 last year. It is astounding to think that he has actually improved at making contact, further suggesting that his decreased production appears to be more bad luck than regression. With that said, Seager has still been one of the best offensive shortstops in the game even though he struggled for half of the young season. It is clear that Seager excels at making adjustments, a terrific sign for his performance over the course of a full year.
Seager’s offense has been predictably solid, but his defense has been far better than most expected. Surprisingly, his defense has actually been 1.6 runs better than his offense. Due to his size (6’4, 215 pounds) many scouts believed Seager would be a below average shortstop before having to switch to third base in the future. However, the young shortstop has more than dispelled this notion. Seager ranks 7th in MLB at 6.4 runs above average, better than excellent defensive players such as Jose Iglesias, Francisco Lindor, Adeiny Hechavarria, and others. Many scouts believed his size was going to be his biggest problem at the position, but it appears that Seager has used his genetics to his advantage. Seager has the best range runs above average metric in all of baseball at 5.4 and his ultimate zone rating (UZR) ranks fifth in baseball at 4.2. For a big guy whose biggest issue was supposed to be his range, Seager has proved all the scouts wrong who argued that he would not be able to stick at shortstop for the long term. As Seager improves the other parts of his defense (all about league average) it is definitely feasible to believe that Seager may become one of the best defensive shortstops in the national league.
Seager’s great all-around play has been one of the biggest reasons why the Dodgers have been able to stick around .500 this season. Seager’s strong start has been vital in carrying the Dodgers through the team’s early season doldrums. At just 22, Seager has already taken up a place as one of the most important offensive players on the team and looks completely unfazed by these expectations. As he continues to develop and adjust to the major league, it is obvious that he has all the ingredients to become one of the best all-around players in the game. His offense is going to consistently be among the best in the league at his position, but the combination of his bat with his underrated defense is what will make Seager a true game changer. He is already one of the favorites to win rookie of the year, and it looks very likely that he may have an MVP candidacy in the near future. Shortstop is perhaps the most important position on the field, and Seager’s ability to be extremely effective both defensively and at the plate is very rare. One thing is for sure, the Dodgers can feel very safe in saying that they have one of the best shortstops in the game—and that may be selling Seager short.