Dodgers’ shortstop Corey Seager came into 2017 off a stellar rookie season in 2016. He mostly lived up to expectations en route to another great year.
On the surface, 2017 looks like a step back for Dodgers’ shortstop Corey Seager. In 2016 he hit .308/.365/.512 with 26 home runs and 40 doubles which ended up with a Silver Slugger and a third-place finish in MVP voting. This year his numbers took a step back to .295/.375/.479 with 21 home runs and 33 doubles.
He did have 74 fewer plate appearances because he dealt with multiple injuries, but it’s unlikely that he’d have accumulated the power numbers to match 2016. But he did win another Silver Slugger, firmly establishing himself as the National League’s best offensive shortstop.
Coming into the season, he was expected to be an MVP candidate and entrench himself as the Dodgers’ best position player and the guy to build around for the next ten years. 2016 was the baseline of his capabilities. A .300+ batting average with around 30 home runs seemed like a reasonable goal, although he isn’t a power hitter in the truest sense.
Seager has an excellent swing which leads to gap to gap power, but as he got stronger, an improvement on 26 dingers was a reasonable expectation. But the biggest thing fans and the organization wanted to see was improved plate discipline; the next step into becoming an elite hitter.
His step back in production was more because of injuries than him. Through August 25, he was hitting .313/.395/..507 with 18 home runs and 31 doubles, well on his way to surpassing his rookie numbers.
But then his elbow started creating problems, causing him to miss five games in the following 11-game stretch and pinch-hit in the other six. He lost eleven straight starts because of a bothersome elbow which became a concern. Reports were that he might need surgery in the offseason. Ultimately, he didn’t need surgery, but rehab, yet there was no doubt his ability was hindered.
When he came back in September, he hit .179/.261./.321, bringing his season numbers down. But there’s only so much negative you can focus on him with. His season as a whole was good, aided by the improved plate patience we all wanted to see.
He had 13 more walks in 2017 in 74 fewer plate appearances. While his strikeout rate did increase by 2%, this was inflated from his struggles in September. He lost the semblance of plate discipline he had all year. I believe the main reason for this could be he was just trying hard to get out of the slump his elbow caused. But even with that, his walk rate increased from 7.9% in 2016 to 10.9% in 2017.
He swung less at balls outside of the strike zone, which is encouraging, and swung less, in general, this past year. Hopefully, this just a step for him and he carries it over into 2018. And another great sign was his continued ability to hit the other way. 28% of his balls in play were hit to opposite field, comparable to or better than other MVP-caliber left-handed hitters such as Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, and Bryce Harper. He’s a pure spray hitter this early in his career.
The best moment from his season had to have been his historic night where he went 4-5 with a double, three home runs and six RBI. He was steps away from going 5-5 with a double, four home runs and ten RBI.
Even with all this, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he did struggle, like a lot of the Dodger bats, in the playoffs. He hit .237 with a home run in 38 at-bats. The elbow seemed like a critical reason as to why, but he’s struggled in all three postseason trip of his. October is a small sample size, so you don’t want to put too much stock into it.
Heading into 2018, like with Clayton Kershaw’s back, we’ll be paying close attention to Seager’s elbow, especially because after all the reports of surgery, the Dodgers did not proceed with it. And if he’s fully healthy, expectations should be another MVP-caliber season, especially if the Dodgers end up with the best record again. Best player on the best team is a good way of getting into the conversation.
The grade wavered between an A- and B+, but ultimately his September really hurt him. While it wasn’t all his fault, the struggles did happen, and you cannot ignore them. But hey, if his 2017 was less than expected, that just goes to show the kind of talent he is and the high regard he is held in.