In 2009 the Mariners drafted a former North Carolina second baseman. It wasn’t Dustin Ackley, who has since converted to the position, but rather Kyle Seager. After playing primarily second and third base at UNC, Seager was drafted by the Mariners in the third round.
While Ackley and fellow 2009 draftee Nick Franklin have nabbed most of the headlines, Seager’s managed to post some pretty damn good numbers in the minor leagues. Last year at High Desert, Seager posted a .921 OPS with good strikeout and walk rates, but considering it was fueled by an astounding .390 BABIP, those numbers were sure to go down upon his promotion to AA Jackson.
High Desert is well-known for inflating offensive numbers, and there was a big worry that his newfound power stroke wouldn’t translate to a more traditional hitting setting. So far, his ISO has actually stayed(.157 compared to .158), while his BABIP may have stabilized closer to where he’ll be in the bigs (.323), and while his walk rates are down some, so are his strikeout rates. His .791 OPS this season is actually rather encouraging.
All of this without mentioning that Seager hits left-handed.
Left-handed hitting infielders are almost worth their weight in gold, especially when they can actually swing this stick. And considering that Seager’s able to play multiple positions (he’s played mostly second base in the minors, but has also played more than 30 games at both shortstop and third base) he’s got a lot of potential value.
The problem is that he may have limited value for the Mariners.
If all goes according to plan, the team will have Ackley at second base for the next decade or so once he’s called up. And even if Seager were to become a passable defensive shortstop, he’d have Nick Franklin to compete with (though Franklin could be headed off the position soon). Each of those guys is left-handed, so even a platoon split is pretty much out of the question.
Seager’s blocked at third base by Chone Figgins in the bigs, and Alex Liddi is getting most of the time there in Tacoma (though he may ultimately be a 1B/DH type). All that and the Mariners hold the second pick of the draft, which will probably be used on Anthony Rendon if the standout Rice third baseman is available after the Pirates pick.
But if Seager were to play outfield, he’d go from being a three position backup, to a guy who had the big part of a platoon, or perhaps a near-everyday position as a lefty-utility guy. Think of a Ben Zobrist ceiling, a pre-Mariner-Chone-Figgins middle, and a Rich Amaral floor.
Most importantly though, Seager may be able to get 500 at bats a year if he played outfield. The team presently has Mike Carp playing left field in Tacoma, and while Carlos Puguero and Mike Wilson have been endearing stories so far this season in the majors, each has significant flaws in their game that may make their remaining in the majors hard. Johermyn Chavez, who came over in the Brandon Morrow trade, as well as Puguero, Greg Halman, and Michael Saunders all have huge strikeout problems. Seager, by contrast, is able to combine pretty solid contact skills with moderate power and adequate plate discipline.
I can’t guarantee that Seager would make a great outfielder, but if he ever wants to set foot on the same field as his former college teammate, he may be doing it on the outfield grass.