CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Los Angeles Dodgers 2012 first-round draft pick and North Carolina native Corey Seager celebrated his 19th birthday on Saturday (April 27) not in L.A. or Carolina, but right here in eastern Iowa. Welcome to the Class A Midwest League, kid.
“It’s going to be weird (celebrating) it here instead of at home like it’s always been, but it will be all right,” Seager said Friday from Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium before his Great Lakes Loons played a MWL game against the host Cedar Rapids Kernels.
And my, oh my, what a celebration it was.
Seager – a 6-foot-4, 205-pound, lefty swinging shortstop batting fifth in the Loons' order – went 3-for-5 with a pair of two-run home runs, a double, four RBI and three runs scored in Great Lakes' extra-inning loss to Cedar Rapids, quite an eye-popping performance for a newly minted 19-year-old. After 21 Midwest League games, he was hitting .284/.376/.473 with six extra-base hits (three homers), 11 RBI and 15 runs scored.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Seager said of getting acclimated to life in the low-Class A MWL. “It’s been a little cold and you have to get used to the weather, but it’s been good. This is definitely a step up from last year – better pitching, better players, not as many errors; just cleaner baseball.”
Seager, a 2012 graduate Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C., and a native of Kannapolis, N.C., participated in 11 Perfect Game events between 2008 and 2011, including eight PG WWBA and PG BCS Finals tournaments with North Carolina-based Dirtbags Baseball. He was also a prominent performer at both the 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., and the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings in San Diego.
“You got to see the rest of the country and you got to see where you compared with everybody else,” Seager said. “They were really good tournaments and showcases.”
He was also a member of the USA Baseball 16u team that won the gold medal at the 2010 COPABE Pan Am Youth Championships.
Seager had signed a national letter of intent with South Carolina, but after all the national exposure he had received his draft stock was starting to soar. In a pre-draft scouting report, Perfect Game noted that Seager played third base exclusively at the highest profile showcase events, including the All-American Classic, although he played shortstop for his high school team. (Seager has said in published reports that he feels most comfortable at shortstop but if the Dodgers want to move him to third, he’ll move to third).
The PG report said that, “Seager earns his highest praise from scouts for his defensive potential” while also noting that his “bat speed and leverage at contact from the left side alone make him impossible to not project as a hitter, both for power and average.”
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 last June. “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 quickly accepted a $2.35 million signing bonus – well above the recommended slot bonus –and went to work at Ogden in the short-season, Rookie-level Pioneer League. It was a fine professional opening act: in 46 games at Ogden, Seager hit .309 with .383/.520 on-base/slugging percentages, and nine doubles, eight homers, 33 RBI, 34 runs scored and eight stolen bases.
“It went well,” he said. “I had to make some changes and everything and get used to pro ball, but overall it went pretty well. I tried to get better every day and I thought I succeeded in that and it was a good learning year. You find out that you’re not going to go out and hit .500 like you did in high school and it’s going to be true baseball.”
Seager went into spring training with a head of steam and was quickly climbing the organization’s top prospect charts. In ranking Seager the No. 3 prospect in the Dodgers organization, Baseball Prospectus wrote:
“Great hands; athletic body; room to get stronger; hit/power projections to plus; whip in the swing; produces bat speed and can drive the baseball; quality at-bats for young hitter; plenty of arm for left side; glove will play above average at third; shows baseball skills.”
Great Lakes Loons manager Razor Shines – a former big-leaguer with the Montreal Expos best known for his unique name and the 16 years he spent in the minor leagues, mostly at Triple-A Indianapolis – was infusive in his praise of Seager during an interview with Hugh Bernreuter from MLive.com in early April.
“He’s got everything,” Shines told MLive.com. “He can do anything on the field … hit for power, hit for average, run, field; he’s smart, he’s good-looking. …He’s extremely intelligent … (and) he has his head on straight. Those are the kind of players you can spend that kind of money on. You’re not going to see his name in the papers about what he did last night. He’s not going to embarrass the organization.”
Baseball flows freely through Seager’s bloodlines, starting with his father, Jeff, who played collegiately at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.
His oldest brother is 25-year-old Kyle Seager, a former standout at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who was a third-round pick of the Seattle Mariners in the 2009 MLB amateur draft. An infielder, Kyle made his MLB debut with the Mariners two years later and last year hit 20 home runs and drove in 86 runs in first full big-league season (155 games). After 26 games this season, he was hitting .289 with 10 doubles, three homers and 12 runs batted in.
“He’s helped me a ton with everything,” Seager said of Kyle. “Anytime I have a question about my swing or anything else, he’s there for me and he’s given me really good advice. I still talk with him every night and we’re pretty close; I’m close with him and I’m close with my middle brother, too.”
The middle brother is Justin Seager, a junior infielder at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Through games of April 28, Justin led the 49ers with a .355 batting average, with 18 doubles, a triple, a home run, 32 RBI and a team-high 37 runs.
Corey Seager celebrated his 19th birthday with a bang. He anticipates several more celebrations as he moves up ladder in the coming years, culminating on a future April 27th when he’s playing in the big leagues. He’s smart enough to know the Midwest League is where he belongs right now as he continues to grow into the consummate professional ballplayer.
“I need to mature and learn the game more mentally than physically right now,” Seager said. “That’s going to be my biggest challenge.”