Corey Seager a lock for Rookie of the Year and bonafide MVP candidate

Most knew Corey Seager would be a really good Major League Baseball player, but I don’t think many thought he’d be this good this soon.

Seager, 22, is having an historic season for Dodger shortstops. He’s already the franchise record-holder for home runs in a season by a shortstop with 21, but what’s even more impressive is his 140 wRC+ — 18th-best in all of baseball and easily tops at shortstop (not counting Manny Machado).

In fact, he has already surpassed his lofty projections from the offseason. Let me direct you to a post from January titled, “Corey Seager’s projection: Greatness.”

“Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system has Seager slated to hit .266/.311/.447 with 20 home runs, a 111 OPS+ and a team-best (offensively) 3.9 wins above replacement.  While the on-base percentage seems a bit low, he more than makes up for it with the power. Steamer isn’t as bullish on Seager, giving him a .265/.315/.423, 17 home runs, 105 wRC+ and a 2.9 WAR (third-best) — which is still damn good for a 22-year-old. It remains to be seen if he hits these projections — or exceeds them — but the expectation of greatness is almost here for Seager.

He’s the best position player prospect the Dodgers have developed since Matt Kemp. Before that, Adrian Beltre and Mike Piazza (some could say Paul Konerko, but he did all his damage elsewhere). Yet, there’s a different feeling around Seager. He has the intangible “it” that is always talked about. He isn’t going to be a vocal leader-type, but with some of the veteran players entering the twilight of their careers, someone is going to have to take the leadership mantle from the likes of Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner (this obviously doesn’t include Clayton Kershaw, because this is absolutely his team). I could easily see Seager being the undisputed leader of the Dodgers in the next 2-3 years.”

Seager’s current slash line is .305/.360/.534 with an OPS+ of 141 and a 5.7 WAR (FanGraphs). At age 22. As a shortstop. On a playoff contender. Damn.

Former Dodger blogger — though he doesn’t like to admit it — turned MLB.com writer Mike Petriello wrote last week about Seager and his MVP chances.

“It’s been an unusual season in the NL, as far as MVP arguments go. For most of the year, the unthinkable brilliance of Clayton Kershaw had him squarely in the lead, but he’s now missed so much time due to injury (and without a clear return date) that he’s probably out of the discussion. You might have argued for Matt Carpenter, before he was injured. Early in the year, Bryce Harper‘s outstanding April put him into the spotlight, but he’s struggled for months since. Good players on likely non-playoff teams like Nolan Arenado, Starling Marte, Wil Myers, Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto won’t have a chance, as unfair and infuriating as that is.

So at the moment, with all due respect to Brandon Crawford and Marcell Ozuna, the NL MVP Award race seems to come down to four names: Seager, Anthony Rizzo,Kris Bryant and Daniel Murphy. That’s a rookie shortstop, two hitting stars on the same team, and the most unlikely over-30 superstar we’ve seen in years. A traditional race, it is most certainly not.”

Mike cited three main reasons why Seager is a legitimate MVP candidate:

  1. He’s the best shortstop in baseball.
  2. He’s having the best season for a Dodger shortstop ever.
  3. He might be the best rookie shortstop ever.

Seager’s offensive prowess is unquestioned, but his defense — according to the metrics — has been incredible and well above-average. He ranks third in FanGraphs’ Defense rating (16.4), fourth in UZR/150 (17.7) and only 10th in defensive runs saved (10). Of any qualified position player, his Defense and UZR/150 are fifth-best and 10th-best in all of baseball.

Defensive metrics need to be taken with a grain of salt, and the scouting reports wouldn’t support Seager being one of baseball’s five-best defenders, but he has been a lot better than most anyone would have thought or expected. Factor in that, the premium offensive production as a shortstop and Kershaw’s injury, and there’s your bonafide MVP candidate. Oh, and there’s a 99.9 percent chance he takes home the National League Rookie of the Year award. It’d be the Dodgers’ first since Todd Hollandsworth in 1996.

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It might get to a point when one day we get tired of writing about Seager the way we’re tired with writing about Kershaw — there’s only so many “this guy is great” articles we can write. That’s the hope, anyway. Even if Seager eventually has to move off shortstop, he has plenty of bat for third base, and his defense would probably improve if he slides over to the hot corner.

This is just the beginning of a fantastic MLB career. Much like Kershaw, we just need to sit back and enjoy it. He might not be the generational talent Kershaw is, but he’s the next-best thing.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.