Is Corey Seager Trying To Hit For More Power?

Corey Seager was a polarizing fantasy player heading into the 2019 season. Baseball’s fifth most valuable player in 2016-17 (12.9 WAR) spent most of 2018 on the disabled list recovering from Tommy John surgery. While Seager’s overall contributions to the Dodgers are obvious, his fantasy value has been up for debate given the increasingly high replacement level at the shortstop position and Seager’s somewhat limited power output.

Entering the 2019 season, Seager had slugged .494 with 54 home runs in 355 career games played. No one would confuse him with Billy Hamilton, but he also wasn’t hitting for the elite power that many other top tier shortstops were.

So far in 2019, Seager has struggled, hitting .235/.329/.356 with just two home runs. But his batted ball profile suggests that he might be trying to do something that his fantasy critics were riding him about heading into the season.

I’ve included data from 2016-17 as those represent his two full major league seasons to date.

Corey Seager Batted Balls
FB% GB% Launch Angle (Degrees)
2016-17 31 44.4 10.5
2019 44.4 34.3 16.6
SOURCE: FanGraphs, Baseball Savant

Early on, it looks as though Seager is trading some of his ground balls for fly balls, a potentially promising sign. The young shortstop has hit 44 fly balls to 34 ground balls, good for a 0.77 GB/FB rate, a significant improvement on his 1.40 career number.

While putting the ball in the air is typically a good idea for a hitter, Seager has seen his other peripheral numbers drop off as he hits more fly balls. His average exit velocity and hard hit percentage are both tracking at career lows. When it comes to fly ball exit velocity specifically, Seager has seen a decline as well.

Corey Seager Exit Velocity (mph)
Average Exit Velocity MLB Avg Fly Ball EV MLB Avg
2019 87.6 88.3 89 92.3
2016-17 90.5 87.1 92.7 91.1
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Seager has seen his exit velocity numbers go from above average in 2016-17 to below average in 2019. Is it possible this drop in exit velocity has come from a swing adjustment he is trying to make in-season? It should be noted that some of his early season struggles have also come from an inability to hit four-seam fastballs as well as he has in the past, another promising sign that he can turn things around.

Corey Seager vs. Four-Seam Fastballs
BA SLG wOBA
2019 .250 .417 .346
2017 .358 .679 .462
2016 .340 .507 .393

The people within the fantasy community who supported Seager coming into 2019 (myself included) pointed out that aside from power production, he does nearly everything else well. His batted ball metrics, along with his plate and contact skills, all point to an accomplished hitter – Seager owned a career 133 wRC+ heading into 2019. And he has been able to help in one of fantasy’s scarcest categories: batting average.

Seager’s detractors were worried about his injury history (he had played through nagging injuries before his Tommy John surgery) and inability to hit for top-tier power. He may be in the midst of changing his potential power output.

It’s still early and hard to know for certain if Seager is making an adjustment to his swing. Treating you to a breakdown through GIFs would be dishonest, as I just don’t know enough about hitting mechanics. The Dodgers did hire J.D. Martinez’ former hitting coach and launch angle guru, Robert van Scoyoc, this offseason – so it’s very possible he is being coached in the direction of hitting more fly balls.

If Seager is trying to re-work his swing, it’s understandable that he may be going through an adjustment period. Especially considering Seager missed almost all of spring training. Combine some improved results on fastballs with the potential for more home runs and Seager becomes an intriguing player to not only to hold on to, but potentially buy low on.

We hoped you liked reading Is Corey Seager Trying To Hit For More Power? by Nick Dika!

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Nick thinks running a Major League or fantasy baseball team is incredibly easy. Until he is handed one of those coveted GM positions, his writing at RotoGraphs will illustrate how to do it properly. Fantasy baseball trade consultations and anything else can be sent to nick.dika@gmail.com or tweeted to @nickdika.

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carterdocgooden85Nick Dikabaltic wolfFrancis C. Recent comment authors
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Francis C.
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Francis C.

He’s been pretty awful, .214 xBA and .295 xWOBA. Assuming you spent a mid round pick on him like I did, you can’t just drop him. But man, it’s tough running him out there every day. Let’s hope he can turn it around sooner than later.