CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Corey Seager seemed on the fast-track to big-league stardom right from the outset, destined to follow in the footsteps of his bother Kyle Seager, who is seven years his senior. As things played out and the four years passed with rapid-fire precision, Corey’s track has proven to be even faster than that of Kyle’s, the Seattle Mariners’ 29-year-old All-Star third baseman who just completed his fifth full season in Major League Baseball.
Corey Seager, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 22-year-old shortstop, completed his first full season in the big leagues in October – he played in 157 regular-season games – and on Monday night was named the Jackie Robinson National League Rookie of the Year Award winner in a unanimous vote by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of American (BBWAA).
Seager, an alumnus of the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic, the 2011 PG National Showcase and nine other PG events between 2008 and 2011, became the seventh player with a Perfect Game background to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
The past PG alumni winners were the Cubs’ Geovany Soto (2008), the Marlins’ Chris Coghlan (2009), the Giants’ Buster Posey (2010), the Nationals’ Bryce Harper (2012), the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez (2013) and the Cubs’ Kris Bryant (2015).
“I want to thank the Baseball Writers’ Association for this, and my family, obviously,” Seager told MLB.com Monday night. “I’ve got to thank a lot of my coaches here in North Carolina – my high school coaches – and some coaches in the minor leagues that I came up with and, obviously, all the coaches here in L.A.”
Michael Fulmer, the Detroit Tigers’ 23-year-old right-handed pitcher who made his big-league debut on April 29, received the Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award in balloting with New York Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez and Cleveland Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin. He was nearly a unanimous selection himself, receiving 26 of the 30 first-place votes and four second-place votes, finishing with 142 points to Sanchez’s 91 and Naquin’s 20.
Fulmer played at the 2010 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., with the Oklahoma-based Sandlot/Midwest Scout Team and became the fifth PG alumnus to be named the AL ROY. The others were the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson (2011), the Angels’ Mike Trout (2012), the Rays’ Wil Myers (2013) and the Astros’ Carlos Correa (2015).
“It’s still hard to wrap my head around a little bit; it was a fun season,” Fulmer told The Detroit Free Press last week. “I feel like there’s a lot of things I could have done better this year and a lot of things I could have done worse, so I like to take the positives out of it and work on the negatives in the off-season, and hopefully come to spring training stronger and better.”
Seager, who is also a finalist for the National League Most Valuable Player Award, gave an indication of the type of impact performer he was destined to become during a 27-game September call-up in 2015 when he hit .337 with 13 extra-base hits (4 HRs) and 17 RBI.
Although slowed by a nagging knee injury during spring training, he jumped right into the fray when the 2016 regular season got underway. He finished his NL All-Star campaign with a slash line of .308/.365/.512 with 71 extra-base hits (26 HRs), 72 RBI and 105 runs and helped the Dodgers beat the Nationals in a NL Division Series before losing to the World Champion Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series.
During his remarkable rookie season, he set Dodgers franchise records in hits (193), total bases (321), extra-base hits (71), doubles (40) and runs scored (105); he also ranked among the National League’s top-10 in each of those categories.
A 2012 graduate of Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C., Seager made his Perfect Game debut at the 2008 14u PG BCS Finals in Fort Myers, Fla., playing with the Carolina Tar Heels, which won the tournament championship. He moved on to play in eight PG WWBA and PG BCS Finals tournaments with the North Carolina-based Dirtbags organization, and was a member of the 2010 Dirtbags team that shared the title at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.
Those tournaments prepared Seager nicely for his appearances at the PG National Showcase and the PG All-American Classic; he was also a member of the USA Baseball 16u National Team that won the 2010 COPABE Pan Am Youth Championships.
“You got to see the rest of the country and you got to see where you compared with everybody else,” Seager told PG in 2013 when he was playing with the Great Lake Loons in the Class A Midwest League. “They were really good tournaments and showcases.”
Seager was one of 22 prospects at the 2011 PG National Showcase to be made either a first-round or supplemental first-round pick in the 2012 MLB amateur draft. Seven of the top 18 selections in that draft were at the 2011 National, including No. 1 Carlos Correa and No. 7 Max Fried, with David Dahl, Addison Russell, Gavin Cecchini and Courtney Hawkins going 10 through 13. Seager was taken by the Dodgers with the 18th overall pick.
“I didn’t really know what to expect so I just sat there and watched it,” he said of that memorable draft day in June 2012. “It’s a different experience, and you don’t really know how to explain that to anybody else. It’s one of those things you just have to go through.”
Seager, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-handed hitter, played in 390 games over four minor league seasons (2012-2015) and slashed .307/.368/.523. His transition into the big leagues in the fall of 2015 was so seamless, he was touted as the favorite to win the 2016 NL ROY Award way back in spring training, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
Moving forward, Seager seems destined to join his brother Kyle as an elite MLB talent, and already looks poised to match or surpass Kyle’s power numbers – the Mariner had career highs of 30 home runs and 99 RBI this season – while hitting for a much higher average (Kyle is a career .266 hitter). But both PG National Showcase alumni (Kyle was at the 2005 National) and former Dirtbags have already done the Seager name proud.
THE NEW YORK METS SELECTED MICHAEL FULMER with the 44th pick in the first supplemental round of the 2011 June Amateur Draft right out of Deer Creek High School in Edmond, Okla. (he had signed to play at Arkansas). He was drafted a little over eight months after showing a fastball that sat 89-91 mph, a 78 mph curveball, a 79 mph slider and 74 mph changeup at the 2010 PG WWBA World Championship (his fastball sat 87-90 at the Area Code Games in August 2010).
Fulmer was in the minor leagues at the 2015 MLB Trade Deadline and was part of the deal that sent him to the Tigers and moved Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets. After debuting in April, the Tigers’ right-hander went on an unprecedented run, winning nine of his first 11 starts; in his 10 starts from May 21-July 17, Fulmer went 7-1 and posted a 0.83 ERA. He stumbled a little down the stretch and finished the season 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 159 innings.