by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The popular thinking will be to have the Dodgers’ Corey Seager among the Top 3 shortstops in the league. Why wouldn’t we? His rookie campaign was highly impressive and it’s easy to simply look at the numbers and get excited:
627 At Bats
.308 Batting Average (193 Hits)
26 Home Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.365 On Base Percentage
.512 Slugging Percentage
.355 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Then why is it that he came in at #6 on our recently released shortstop rankings (click here to view)? There are several reasons to think that a “sophomore slump”, if that’s what you want to call it, is on the horizon. Realistically, barring a change/growth it’s more of a true regression that we’d expect, especially in his average and power:
He was a .307 career hitter in the minor leagues, though he hit .278 in 421 AB at Triple-A in ’15. Obviously the BABIP alone, even with an elevated Hard% rate (39.7%), should be expected to regress. However there’s also reason to believe that his 19.4% strikeout rate is going to rise as well.
Overall he posted an 11.3% SwStr%, and he struggled against most types of pitches (Whiff%):
Barring an adjustment, opposing pitchers will likely throw him a steady diet of breaking balls and offspeed pitches. That’s going to lead to an increase in his strikeout rate (think 21+%, with the potential for an even greater bump). When coupled with the regression in the BABIP, expecting a .275-.290 average is highly more believable.
He did hit 40 doubles and 5 triples last season, and at his age adding power is what we’d expect. That said he’s not one to put a significant number of balls in the air, with a 29.3% fly ball rate. Among players who qualified for the batting title there were 33 players who posted a fly ball rate below 30%. Of those there were a total of 11 players to hit at least 20 HR (33%), which broke down:
At his rate expecting a growth would be a mistake, as it’s extremely difficult to do. It’s far more likely that he drops by a few HR, with 20-24 being realistic.
Last season Seager got 500 AB hitting second, yet still scored over 100 runs. Is that really something we’d expect him to replicate? The drop in average alone is going to lead to fewer runs scored, but generally #2 hitters are forced to give themselves up and move runners along leading to fewer runs scored. It’s not to say that it’s going to disappear, but 80-90 is far more likely (and his spot in the batting order also helps to cap his RBI potential).
Obviously, none of these numbers are bad they just don’t match what he did in his rookie season. Others may overvalue him and think that he’s going to take another step forward and emerge as one of the elite. Don’t make that mistake. He’s going to be among the better options, but he’s a step below the Carlos Correa’s of the world in 2017.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, CBS Sports, Brooks Baseball
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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings: