The honor for first 2016 Pod Projectionee goes to Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. He came to the plate just 113 times in his Major League cup of coffee, but man did he impress. He posted a robust .421 wOBA and displayed elite underlying skills across the board. I wrote him up in mid-November, concluding with the following:
With all the other exciting sophomores getting more attention, it’s possible Seager slips under the radar, even with his excellent September performance. Normally, he’s the type of player who would be a near lock to be overvalued. But I’m not so sure about it. In fact, I’m rather curious where fantasy owners will peg his value. I don’t expect a big breakout, but he could very well be a solid across the board contributor.
“…it’s possible Seager slips under the radar”, ha! He’s currently the 55th player off the board and third shortstop selected according to NFBC ADP. Surely fantasy owners haven’t forgotten about him and are putting an awful lot of stock into his prospect pedigree and a tiny sample of MLB performance. Are they justified in their optimism?
Plate Appearances: 624
Though he spent the majority of his time hitting fifth or sixth with the Dodgers last year, Roster Resource figures he’ll slot into the two hole his year. That’s going to boost his per game plate appearance total. However, there is definitely risk that he gets dropped in the order, as the Dodgers do feature a plethora of candidates that would fit into that second slot. But if Seager hits, like we all expect, he’ll remain there.
This is the first time I’m sharing my walk rate projection as part of a Pod Projection post. I figured that since it does directly affect the runs scored projection, it would be beneficial to discuss it. Seager posted an impressive 12.4% walk rate during his short stint in Los Angeles, but that appears to be a complete fluke. First, his career minor league walk rate was just 8.5%, but that was inflated by higher marks in the low minors. Since 2014, his walk rate was just 7.3% and at Triple-A in 2015, it fell to 6.9%. Second, he swung a whole lot once he reaches the Majors. His overall Swing% sat at 51.6%, versus a 47.4% league average. It’s not often you see a player swing so often and yet still post a well above average walk rate. So regression here is an obvious call.
Throughout his minor league career, Seager struck out in 18.4% of his plate appearances, which is a very respectable mark given his power output. I actually didn’t even make that calculation when making this projection, so it’s a total coincidence that my forecast is the same! He significantly improved his strikeout rate at Double-A and then Triple-A in 2015, but then posted a worse than league average SwStk% of 11.2% with the Dodgers. The only reason his strikeout rate remained as low as 16.8% is because he swung so frequently! I figure he’ll be less aggressive and his strikeout rate rises.
GB%/LD%/FB%: 47% / 20% / 33%
He sported a surprising extreme ground ball tilt in the Majors, hitting grounders about 53% of the time. In the minors through the time MinorLeagueSplits.com stopped updated its data (6/18/15), he had posted a career minor league ground ball of 41.6%, which is actually lower than average. So I projected a jump in fly ball rate, which represents about the middle between his short stint with the Dodgers and minor league track record.
Seager posted a hefty .387 BABIP with the Dodgers and through the time MLSplits died, had BABIPd .361 in his minor league days, though was only at .298 at Triple-A . We know that minor league BABIPs don’t perfectly translate to the Majors, but in my projecting experience, it does correlate well, though I have no research to back that up. His batted ball profile was excellent with the Dodgers and he hit zero pop-ups in 98 at-bats, which is mighty impressive. He just needs to hit balls the opposite way more often and he’ll have a near perfect batted ball profile.
HR/FB Ratio: 14.5%
He had posted a 14.8% HR/FB rate in the minors through that date I referenced above, but displayed even more intriguing power during his Dodgers time. Obviously, the sample is tiny, but his batted ball distance sat at 297.7 feet and he posted above average marks in both average absolute angle and standard deviation of distance. In all, his xHR/FB rate was 20.7%, validating his actual 19% mark. Of course, we can’t assume he’ll be able to sustain that type of power, especially considering he posted just a .173 ISO at Triple-A last year, with 13 homers in 421 at-bats (a 19 homer pace over my PA projection).
Runs and RBI: 82 and 77
My runs scored and runs batted in projections are closer together than the typical two-hole hitter. That’s because of that risk of him getting dropped in the order that I noted in the plate appearance discussion above. If it happens, his runs scored would decline, but he’d be granted additional RBI opportunities.
Seager seemingly possesses above average speed, but simply hasn’t been interested in using it to steal bases. He has swiped as many as 10 bases back in 2013, and that’s it. Speed peaks at a young age, so it’s hard to figure he’ll suddenly have a greater willingness to run now. He shouldn’t be a complete zero in the category though, but there’s no reason to believe he’ll attempt more than five to 10 steals.
Below is my final projected fantasy batting line, along with the other systems for comparison.
Well this is a rather interesting set of projections. 99% of the time, the Fans are most optimistic, but this is a rare case where I’m even more bullish than them (yup, my wOBA projection is just a tad higher)! That scares the heck out of me and makes me feel better that I didn’t pay value for him in the LABR Mixed draft. We’re all in the same ballpark with the home run projection, though I used my xHR/FB components to inform my projection, which led to my greater optimism there.
Clearly, the Fans aren’t looking at Seager’s minor league walk rate, and it’s odd to see ZiPS’ strikeout rate so much higher than the rest of us. I wonder where that’s coming from.
My high BABIP stems from an analysis of his batted ball profile and his minor league record, the former of which I don’t believe the other systems utilize. You can also see that my R/RBI numbers easily make the most sense for a guy slated to hit second. The other systems must not be accounting for his spot in the batting order, or are assuming it will be the same as last year.
In the introduction, I pondered whether NFBCers were justified in selecting Seager 55th overall on average. I valued him at 67 in the LABR draft, which has the same settings as NFBC and is therefore directly comparably. So it seems a bit aggressive, especially in light of my bullish projection, but not outlandish. It’s certainly not as ridiculous as Xander Bogaerts going 57th overall, just two spots after Seager. That one still baffles me.
What do you project for Corey Seager in 2016?
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.