Shuffling The Deck: Kyle Seager
Dustin Ackley. Jesus Montero. Justin Smoak. Michael Saunders.
This was supposed to be the nucleus of The Next Great Mariners Team. Ackley was a safe pick as a plus-bat second baseman out of college. Montero was the M’s’ No. 4 hitter of the future. Smoak would give them some much-need power, and Saunders would roam the outfield while providing some up-the-order pop.
Yet as the saying goes, even the best laid plans are summarily ruined by the seeming inability of the Mariners organization to develop good young hitters.
It’s easy to pile on the Mariners for the relative failures of these four players, and perhaps there really is something about their player development plan or major league coaching that prevents promising offensive prospects from turning into viable major leaguers.
Lost in this list of broken dreams, though, is one man who has come seemingly out of nowhere to become a cornerstone player for the team in the Northwest. This man never made a Top 100 prospect list, was never considered a premium prospect and still doesn’t get the attention he deserves.
Yes, out of the ashes of so many failed hitting prospects in Seattle, Kyle Seager has emerged as a damn fine baseballer.
You’d never know it from the lack of attention he gets around the league, but Seager is currently having the seventh-best season of any third baseman who qualifies in terms of fWAR, notching 3.7 wins thus far in 583 PA. Five of the names above him are bona fide super stars, and one name above him belongs to Josh Donaldson.
Despite playing in a poor offensive environment for a poor offensive team, Seager is putting up a .277/.348/.460 line with 21 homers and seven steals, adding 62 RBI and 74 runs to boot. And the best part about Seager’s performance? It looks to be largely sustainable.
An elevated walk rate, improved ISO and 2 percent jump in HR/FB rate have led to his subtle improvement this year. A BABIP of .304 is perfectly sustainable, especially for someone who doesn’t’ clog the bases, and Seager’s ground ball, line drive an fly ball percentages are essentially equal to what they were in his statistically similar 2012 campaign.
Seager is also in his age-25 season, meaning this sort of steady improvement is exactly what we should be looking for. Add it all together, and there’s little reason not to expect more of the same – and possibly better – from Seager in 2013.
Next year, you’re probably going to see the likes of Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval and Chris Johnson selected before Seager in some leagues, and that’s a flat out mistake. While I don’t expect Seager to break into the upper echelon of non-Miguel Cabrera third baseman, I do think he’s a safe bet to be a Top 10 option at the position, but one you’ll be able to snag much later than, say, Adrian Beltre or David Wright.
One word of warning: I do expect that Seager will be a popular “sleeper” pick next season, so those of you in dynasty or keeper leaguers are smart to pounce on him now and hope his owner doesn’t realize his worth. I would not trade an elite prospect for him, but if you can build a package around a third-tier outfielder and Top 50 pitching prospect, you should pull the trigger.