Reviewing 2016 Pod Projections: Corey Seager

Corey Seager recorded just 113 MLB plate appearances in 2015, but he made a big splash with his performance and the lack of a track record didn’t stop the RotoGraphs ranking crew from placing him fifth among shortstop in the preseason. I was even more bullish, as my projections valued him as the second best shortstop! Seager ultimately finished fourth according to our end of season dollar values (fifth if including Jean Segura), but that probably undersells him, as he was just as good as hoped for.

Let’s recap my 2016 Pod Projection and see how my forecasts compared to his actual results.

Projected Plate Appearances: 624 | Actual Plate Appearances: 687

My plate appearance projection assumed Seager would slot into the two hole in the order, but I also baked in some risk he gets dropped at some point. Sure enough, he recorded about 79% of his plate appearances from the two hole, with the vast majority of his remaining PAs coming from the third spot. Interestingly, he actually recorded a plate appearance from every lineup spot (including ninth!), except leadoff. Staying healthy also helped, of course.

Projected BB%: 6.8% | Actual BB%: 7.9%

Not since 2013 did Seager post a walk rate in the double digits, but during his debut with the Dodgers in 2015, he posted a 12.4% walk rate. That was obviously way out of line from his previous history, so it appeared to be a complete fluke to me. His Swing% was well above the league average, so it was a wonder he managed such a strong walk rate. Sure enough, his walk rate plummeted this year, though not as significantly as I projected. His Swing% even increased, while still swinging and missing at the same rate, which is a bad combination for walk rate, but wasn’t enough to push his walk rate below 7.0%. Perhaps surprisingly, Steamer is forecasting a drop in his walk rate, suggesting it’s accounting for his minor league numbers, and maybe, just maybe, factoring in that high Swing%.

Projected K%: 18.4% | Actual K%: 19.4%

I figured with more exposure in the Majors and with his worse than league average SwStk%, there was little chance he would sustain a strikeout rate of 16.8%, the mark he posted during his short time with the Dodgers in 2015. Without knowing it, I actually forecasted a strikeout rate that exactly matched his career minor league mark. He ended up coming in a little worse, which is a bit surprising given that he became even more aggressive at the plate as his Swing% rose. He made around the same amount of contact, so one typically would expect strikeout rates and walk rates to drop from that combination of skills change. Instead, his 2015 strikeout rate was likely just a small sample fluke, and his current strikeout rate better matches his underlying peripherals.

Projected GB%/LD%/FB%: 47% / 20% / 33% | Actual GB%/LD%/FB%: 46.3% / 24.4% / 29.3%

Almost nailed the ground ball rate, but Seager hit more liners at the expense of fly balls. Good for BABIP, bad for home runs. Like I mentioned in my Picks & Pans linked to in the intro, Seager has some serious hidden home run upside in the form of a jump in fly ball rate. He managed to hit 26 homers, despite a sub-30% fly ball rate. Imagine he gets that fly ball rate into the mid or high 30% range. 30 homers would be a lock.

Projected BABIP: .320 | Actual BABIP: .355

I noted in my original writeup that Seager owned close to a near perfect batted ball profile for BABIP, but just needed to go the opposite way more often. Clearly, Seager read my article, because he upped his Oppo% from a meager 16.5% to 28.6%, resulting in an all-fields approach. The only reason my projection was so low in retrospect was the lack of a track record factor, but he looks like a legitimate high BABIP guy now, as he posted the fourth lowest IFFB% among qualified hitters. I would bet heavily on the over on Steamer’s .318 BABIP projection.

Projected HR/FB Ratio: 14.5% | Actual HR/FB Ratio: 17.9%

While Seager showed some promising power potential in the minors, he hadn’t really posted the type of stats you would expect from a future big home run hitter. His minor league HR/FB rate was around 15%, meaning that now his MLB mark is well above that. Both his fly ball exit velocity and Brls/BBE suggest a high teens HR/FB rate is a touch over his head right now, though, so the smart play would be to project a bit of regression next year. Still, because of that fly ball rate upside, he could endure some HR/FB rate decline and still flirt with the 30 homer barrier.

Projected Runs and RBI: 82 and 77 | Actual Runs and RBI: 105 and 72

I almost hit the RBI number, but was well below his runs scored total. The Dodgers offense was actually mediocre this year, scoring in the middle of the pack in runs in both the National League and in baseball. The hitters behind Seager clearly just did a good job of knocking him home when he was on base, as a .365 OBP isn’t elite and 105 runs is a lot from someone without blazing speed or who didn’t just hit 30-40 homers. I would bet on a drop in runs scored next year, though remaining in the second slot would give him the best chance of coming close to matching that total.

Projected SB: 6 | Actual SB: 3

Seager seemingly has more speed than his stolen base totals would have you believe and he hit five triples this year, which is almost purely a speed stat. But he just doesn’t seem interested in running. I think it would be fair to expect similar totals next year and anything more than mid-single digits would just be a bonus.

Below was my final projected fantasy batting line, along with the other systems for comparison, and Seager’s actual stats.

Corey Seager 2016 Projections vs Actual
Pod 624 571 0.285 22 82 77 6 6.8% 18.4% 0.320
Steamer 574 526 0.265 16 64 65 5 6.3% 18.6% 0.303
ZiPS 643 606 0.266 20 80 87 5 5.8% 19.9% 0.305
Fans (23) 630 561 0.282 18 76 79 9 9.2% 18.1% 0.322
2016 Actual 687 627 0.308 26 105 72 3 7.9% 19.4% 0.355

Obviously, we were all low on the plate appearances, which made it a bit more challenging to match the actual counting stats Seager posted. Surprisingly, I was far higher on BABIP than both Steamer and ZiPS, though perhaps it’s not as surprising given that I factor in data such as batted ball distribution that I don’t believe those systems do. Of course, the Fans were even more bullish! I was closest on both home runs and runs scored, while on ZiPS projected a strikeout rate above 19%. Overall, I was most optimistic and Seager still exceeded my expectations. I think he’s a pretty safe bet for next year with low bust potential.

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.

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