Are you old enough to remember the days of Corey Seager as just another one of many good-hitting shortstops? Well, I do. I vividly remember arguing to have him ahead of Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts, back when my better judgment told me not to expect 30+ home run seasons from Bogaerts, like the one he had in 2019.
Those days are long gone, and the production we’ve seen from Corey Seager in 2023 is simply outstanding, and beyond probably, even, the highest of expectations around the Rangers’ superstar shortstop.
This isn’t an article simply to prop up Seager’s campaign, we’ve all seen the numbers. What prompted me to engage in a conversation around Seager was my piqued curiosity as to what he’ll actually cost in next season’s drafts, and how we should treat that cost.
With that in mind, first and foremost, we need to rewind and assess what was Seager’s outlook before this season
As an already trendy pick coming into 2023, Seager was drafted at a 53.14 average pick slot across all NFBC drafts. At that range, Seager was surrounded by the likes of Will Smith, Adolis García, Kyle Schwarber, and Cedric Mullins. Now in late September, none of those guys hold a candle to what Seager has done.
Well, when a guy finishes the year as arguably the best pure hitter in the sport, and indisputably a top 15 fantasy bat, you can simply forget picking him up late in the fourth round or beginning of the fifth in 12-teamers.
The reality is that you’ll be in uncharted territory when drafting Corey Seager next year, just how much, is a little tough to speculate right now. However, instead of general conservatism, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to argue for a quote-unquote reach on Seager in 2024.
It’s easy to cop out to the outlook that hey, this player hasn’t done the type of damage that Seager did in 2023 through all of his career. However, truthfully, it’s not just a case of everything coming together for an outlook that you can’t expect in future seasons.
One way or another, Seager has always dealt with small issues that got in the way of him having this big season that we saw. However, most Seager truthers understand he was a hard contact machine for a long time. And the more patient ones who held firm were rewarded.
Let’s take a look at Seager’s numbers in his final two seasons with the Dodgers. One is free to speculate on how much the long absence with Tommy John surgery affected his 2019 output, which was one of his worst seasons.
However, for the purposes of this exercise, let’s just focus on 2020 and 2021, two seasons with limited samples, as in 2020 only 60 regular season games were played and in 2021 Seager missed significant time, only starting in 92 games.
Across those two campaigns, the lefty-hitting shortstop had the following numbers.
Those numbers aren’t quite as good as they have been in 2023, but they give you a taste of the caliber of player that Seager is. Furthermore, regardless of where exactly you set your expectations for 2024 and beyond, it’ll be very difficult to overdraft Corey Seager ahead of next season.
In 2022, Seager still gave you the 30+ bombs, but the batting average was way down, sitting below .250 as the shortstop had by far the worst BABIP of his career, at .242, when his average is .320 across now, nine seasons.
It was a widely discussed topic that Seager would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the shift restrictions. While I do believe that was the case somewhat, even if not, by sheer regression to the means, that 2022 outlook wasn’t going to stand long-term.
So where should Seager go in next year’s drafts?
Is it a stretch to consider Seager in the beginning part of the second round through the end of it? Let’s have a look at other hitters who have lived in that range in recent campaigns without stolen bases as a factor.
Yes, I understand the positional difference, but that’s mostly to justify small preferences. You don’t really change rounds in your board because one guy is a shortstop and not a third baseman if the similarities are pretty close.
Neither Machado nor Devers had particularly great 2023 campaigns, but Devers in particular was pretty solid. You can’t even make the high-end argument in favor of those guys because Seager’s 2023 was better than any single season either one of them put up, even if the Rangers’ start shortstop missed some time.
I think it’s reasonable to expect a tier shift for Seager next year, and I thought it might be worthwhile to get out in front of it. To basically argue – you’re more than fine moving him up draft boards, and probably should be aggressive in your pursuit of him. Otherwise, there is no shot you can get him.
It’s more than plausible to expect an average near .290 or so from Seager, easy 30-35+ bombs, and great counting stats on a pretty good offense. Keep in mind that Seager’s career 134 wRC+ is well ahead of both Manny Machado (122) and Rafael Devers (124).