Seager brings great expectations to LA
Prospect making presence felt with Dodgers, drawing comparisons to legends
Corey Seager has been judged a "can't-miss prospect" since he signed with the Dodgers as a first-round pick, No. 18 overall, in the 2012 MLB Draft out of Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C.
You can't miss Seager, all right. He's 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, with the advanced skill set and cool demeanor in the image of such great shortstops as Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
"[Ripken] Junior is the one who comes to mind when you're talking about a big, young shortstop coming up and making an impact," Dodgers first-base coach Davey Lopes said of the Orioles legend, who was 21 in his first full season in 1982. "Our kid has a long way to go, but he's very talented. You have to like his future."
The obvious difference is that Seager swings from the left side. Almost all of the great all-around shortstops who have hit for power have been right-handed hitters.
Seager, the younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, has arrived in "The Show" at 21 with a bang, lashing base hits all over the lot from the left side with a quick, powerful stroke. His .360/.429/.520 slash line reflects how he has responded through his first seven games.
Except for one bad inning -- two errors behind Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium -- Seager has handled both left-side infield positions like a seasoned pro. Some scouts think he'll end up at third base, largely because of his size, but he already has made plays any veteran shortstop would be proud to call his own.
"He's been good," manager Don Mattingly said, trying not to pump the hype machine. "He doesn't seem overwhelmed in any way. He's comfortable in either place [shortstop or third]. He's glad we played him some third base in Triple-A; he got accustomed to it.
"He's pretty solid, pretty calm. We saw that in the spring. He hasn't been through a bad spell [offensively], but he'll have trials and tribulations like everyone else. The feeling I get is that he'll handle it well."
The only question surrounding Seager is the same one that followed Mike Trout from the No. 25 overall choice in 2009 to Angels superstar at 20. How did so many teams miss on him in the Draft?
Seager comes across as similar in temperament, relaxed and confident, to Trout, who showed up at 19 in 2011. Even when he struggled at the plate, hitting .220 in 40 games, Trout left no doubt that he was special. His manager, Mike Scioscia, never stopped raving about his attitude and talent.
Like Trout, Seager wisely blends quietly into the clubhouse, going about his business. He shows no signs of overreacting to a rough night.
"Mike is the same guy whether he goes 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 with two home runs," said Trout's former teammate Howie Kendrick, who is now a teammate of Seager. "That's what you want in a player, a guy who doesn't get too high or too down on himself."
After committing those two seventh-inning errors during a 6-4 victory that Seager helped forge with a double, a single and a walk, driving in a run and scoring another, he came to his locker to meet the media. Seager could have found a nice hiding place until the media dispersed.
Asked what veteran second baseman Chase Utley had told him after he committed his first error, Seager said, "It's just about the next play. Move on from there. It's hard. I've never had that experience -- my first [error] up here."
Informed that Mattingly said physical errors didn't bother him as much as mental ones, Seager nodded.
"You never want to make a mental mistake," Seager said. An error making a play, "that's baseball," he added.
Seager's second error extended the inning and handed the Angels an unearned run. Pitching through the disturbance, Kershaw was quick to support his young teammate.
"Corey's been awesome," Kershaw said. "He's swinging the bat great -- lefties, righties, everything. It's been fun to watch."
Mattingly felt the Dodgers had an unusually upbeat spring due in part to the presence of young players such as Seager, Joc Pederson and Austin Barnes.
"Camp was really fun this year," Mattingly said. "We had a handful of good, young players. It keeps things fresh, interesting. Everything is exciting to them, and you feel that energy.
"I remember being a young guy [with the Yankees] and making the rounds, coming to Angel Stadium for the first time and looking around and going, 'Wow.'
"[Club president] Stan Kasten talks about building a strong Minor League system, and we're seeing guys like Joc and Corey come up and make an impact. And there are more on the way."
The younger Seager stays in touch with his big brother, an American League All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner last season in Seattle. Kyle Seager broke in with the Mariners at 23 in 2011.
"He has helped me out throughout my career, every little step I've taken," Corey said.
It's a long way from North Carolina, but having both sons playing on the same coast has to be a plus for the Seager family. Kyle and Corey figure to be fixtures in their organizations and cities for years to come.