Some prospects get tagged with that “superstar” label before they even get drafted. They are expected to rise through the minors quickly, adapt to the majors and become an instant franchise player.
Here’s the issue with those expectations, though: Baseball is an incredibly difficult sport, and it only gets harder the higher you go.
That’s why we see a lot of young, prodigious first-round picks fizzle out in the minors or settle into the disappointing role of an average big league guy. There are the rare few who really do make it look easy and become the superstar every scout had them pegged to be.
Some, like Corey Seager, do it in their first full year of the big leagues.
To say Seager has met and exceeded every expectation thus far is an understatement. He was one of those no-doubters, a high school star with strong bloodlines (his brother Kyle anchors the lineup for the Seattle Mariners) who would grow up to be the Dodgers’ franchise player at shortstop. A million and one of those guys have failed, but Seager is in another class.
Drafted with the 18th overall pick in 2012, Seager shot through the system and posted big numbers at every minor league stop. He hit .309 in 46 games after being drafted, then followed it up with another .309 season in 2013 for the Single-A Great Lakes Loons. In the only struggle he’s known as a big leaguer, Seager hit just .160 in 27 games at High-A to close the 2013 season. Naturally, that fall, he was named an AFL All-Star and came back to High-A in 2014 to hit a measly .352 with 18 homers and 70 RBI.
In that season, Seager made the American team for the Futures Game and was then promoted to Double-A and hit .345 to close the year there. In Triple-A for the 2015 season, Seager posted huge numbers and made every All-Star team and award list conceivable, including being named Baseball America’s Triple-A Player of the Year. He earned his first call-up in late 2015, supplanting Jimmy Rollins as the everyday shortstop for the stretch run and the postseason.
As the top prospect in baseball entering 2016, Seager cemented himself as the starter in Spring Training and never looked back, racing out to a unanimous National League Rookie of the Year Award after posting a .308/26 homers/72 RBI line and smashing every Dodger rookie record in the books.
Seager saw his star shine brightest on September 25 of last season. In a game that will mostly be remembered as Vin Scully’s final home broadcast, then as the day Charlie Culberson hit a walk-off, extra-inning homer to clinch the NL West, Seager was the true unsung hero. In a 2-1 game in the seventh, Seager hit an RBI triple to tie the game. After Colorado took a 3-2 lead in the ninth, Seager hit a two-out solo homer to tie it up again, before giving way to Culberson’s fireworks.
That was indicative of the type of season the 22-year-old Seager had for the Dodgers. He was always in the right place at the right time, whether that was breaking up Matt Moore’s no-hit bid with 26 outs on the board against the hated Giants, or belting three homers against Atlanta in June, or getting the Dodgers jump-started early in the NLDS with a first-inning, Game 1 homer off Max Scherzer.
In a season marked by ups and downs and a record number of injuries, Seager was the one constant for the Dodgers. He shouldered the offensive load for much of the early season and avoided any typical rookie swoons down the stretch.
This is the type of the player the fans can look forward to manning their infield for at least the next half-dozen seasons. This is the kid who lived up to all the hype and has even more to give. This is the one who doesn’t get fazed by any success or failure. This is the superstar the Dodgers scouted and drafted. This may be the best shortstop in baseball already, and potentially the one to get the Dodgers over the hump to World Series glory.
By Jeremy Dorn