Kyle Seager is one of those baseball players that doesn't blow you away with any single tool, but can just hit. He has already shown the M's and their fans a lot to get excited about. His current hitting streak, the monster road trip--and when he had the three game streak of three or more hits, he became just the second Mariners player to do so, matching what Ichiro did for Seattle August 22nd through 24th back in 2001.Seager isn't big (5-foot-10, 175 pounds), he isn't particularly fast, he doesn't have a ton of range or a typical third baseman's arm. His plate discipline may be his only plus attribute as a hitter, but the complete package of what Seager offers is somewhat of an undervalued commodity.
That's not to say that what he offers other than put the bat on the ball is not worthy of consideration--he has already shown that he can field at second and third base, he has filled in at shortstop without embarrassing himself or the team, he stole 28 bases in basically two full minor league seasons and he has tallied eight extra base hits in fewer than 100 plate appearances. But Seager's number one tool is that he puts the bat on the ball and hits the ball hard.
Being what most would consider a smaller player, Seager likely won't ever have 20-plus home run power in his bat, but he uses the whole field with a short, quick, level, compact stroke to spray line drives from gap-to-gap. To prove that point, of his 27 big league knocks, Seager has seven hits to left field, 10 hits to center and 10 hits to right. Of his six doubles, two have been hit to each of left, center and right.
While some may say that Seager is due for a falloff because of his high line drive rate (30.9% following last night's game) and high batting average on balls in play (.394), because of his makeup and approach as a hitter, I believe that the opposite may actually be true.
To this point in his major league career, Kyle has struck out 23 times in his 100 major league plate appearances, or 23.0%. He has walked in only 7.0%. For his minor league career Seager posted a 13.3% strikeout rate and a 10.4% walk rate. Obviously the minor leagues are not the major leagues, but I am still trusting his 1,245 minor league plate appearances more than his 96 big league plate appearances. If Seager can simply meet in the middle of his current big league numbers and his lifetime minor league numbers in terms of walk and strikeout rate, we would be looking at a respectable 18.2% strikeout number and an 8.7% walk figure--both better than league average.
That slight adjustment in his numbers already would lower Seager's baBIP number to a still high, but certainly more sustainable, mark of .366. At that clip, he gives the Mariners an .803 OPS, and that is probably what we should consider as Kyle Seager's ceiling as a hitter. But would a steady fielding third baseman that posts a .765 - .805 OPS be a valuable player? Well, in 2011 a .765 would place Kyle 10th among all major league third basemen and at .805 he would rank 4th.
The Mariners are getting a combined .503 OPS from their third basemen (including Seager) this season, and you have to go all the way back to 2008 to find the last time that the club got even an OPS of .750 from that position. He hits left-handed, which as we've all learned plays into the "friendly zone" of Safeco Field, and his patience and low fly ball rate all suggest that he's the type player that can succeed here.
I have mentioned a possible ceiling player comp of former Giants/Cubs/Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller for Seager in the past, and while they may sound a little underwhelming on the surface, Mueller posted an OPS of .797 in his career (.757 if you discount his monster year in Boston). They seemingly possess similar plate discipline and power potential and they are even similar sized players. Based on the limited defensive stats available (and my memory of his career) Mueller was about an average defender in his time at third base (horrid at second), and his career Wins Above Replacement figure is 25.6, or basically 3.2 per 150 game season. Once again, a 3.2 WAR/year third baseman would be top-10 in MLB.
So remember that as you watch him succeed the rest of this season, Kyle Seager can be better. He's just one of those guys that can hit.