To say the Dodgers have a surplus of infielders on their roster would be an understatement. Justin Turner, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Enrique Hernandez, Alex Guerrero and Jose Peraza all have their merits as major leaguers, and all happen to play either second base, third base or shortstop. Not all of them have had the best of seasons this year, but still: that’s seven players capable of playing the infield for just three spots.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the injury bug has taken a huge bite out of that infield depth. Kendrick, perhaps the team’s best infielder, has been out for nearly a month with a hamstring strain. Peraza and Hernandez, who’s been on a tear of late, also went down with hamstring strains last week. Suddenly, the Los Angeles didn’t look all that deep in the infield, especially considering how poorly Utley and Rollins have hit this year.
Enter Corey Seager. In an effort to shore up their ailing infield, the Dodgers summoned their top prospect to the big leagues last week, providing them with another option at shortstop and third base. Seager was the consensus top prospect left in the minor leagues at the time of his call-up. He topped just about every outlet’s mid-season prospect list this summer, and his .300/.346/.464 performance since August 1st certainly hasn’t diminished his case. Overall, Seager hit .293/.344/.487 in 125 minor-league games this year, with all but 20 of those games coming at the Triple-A level.
Seager’s a very well-rounded hitter. Both his strikeout rate and isolated power were markedly better than the Pacific Coast League average in Triple-A this year, which played no small role in his posting an above-average wRC+. But while his Triple-A numbers were good across the board, they were a notch or two less than great.
Being less than great isn’t really the norm for Seager. In fact, his four-month stint in Triple-A marked the first time in his pro career that his hitting had come particularly close to league average. At every other stop, he hit much better than that.
Due to this drop-off in production, KATOH isn’t enamored of Seager. Well, it kind of is, but it doesn’t consider him to be one of the very best prospects in baseball, like most human analysts do. KATOH pegs Seager for 8.9 WAR through age 28, which would have landed him 18th overall on KATOH’s most recent list. He graded out slightly less favorably last season with a forecasted WAR of 7.9.
In sum, Seager was an excellent hitter between High-A and Double-A last year, but was a bit far away from the big leagues. This year, he was close to the big leagues, but his offensive performance was merely good. In both cases, the result was a very good, but less than elite, KATOH forecast.
Let’s break out the Mahalanobis machine and generate some comps.
|Rank||Mah||Name||PA thru 28||WAR thru 28|
There are a few great hitters in that bunch, but overall, this group is pretty underwhelming. Pozo, Linak and Saenz all fell off the map in their mid-20s despite having very similar age-21 seasons at the Triple-A level. In fairness, though, most of these guys probably lacked the physical tools that Seager brings to the table.
It’s not immediately clear how much, or where, Seager will play for the Dodgers down the stretch and in the postseason. In the five games since he was called up, he’s played two at short, two at third and came in as a pinch-hitter once. But it remains to be seen how Don Mattingly will deploy him once Kendrick, Hernandez and Peraza are back in the fold. However, considering Utley is the only other left-handed hitting infielder on the roster, I’d imagine Seager will play pretty regularly against right-handed pitching these next few weeks.
In any event, there’s no denying that the Dodgers are a better team with Seager on the roster. Even if he’s used purely in a bench role, he’s immediately one of their better pinch-hitters, and is likely better than many of the team’s other infield options. For 2015, 21-year-old Corey Seager will serve as a useful part-time player on a playoff-bound team. But going forward, and possibly as soon as next year, he figures to be a productive regular on the left side of the Dodgers infield.