Corey Seager: Undervalued Asset (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
Corey Seager is a name that draws a vast array of differing opinions. It was only four seasons ago when he was crowned the NL Rookie of the Year and finished third in the MVP voting. This pushed Seager into the top-20 in most fantasy rankings heading into the following season.
Here we are in 2020 just days before Spring Training, and Seager is currently being drafted at an ADP of 154. Currently the 18th shortstop off the board (according to NFBC Draft Champions). His FantasyPros consensus ranking sits at 130, with a high ranking of 174.
So what happened? Let’s take a look.
2019 Stat Line
In 2019, Seager set a career-high in RBI over 489 at-bats. In doing so, he also posted a career-low in batting average (min. 200 PA). This seems to be where the disconnect comes into play for most.
In his 2016 Rookie of the Year campaign, Seager batted .308 with 26 HR, 105 R, and 72 RBI. Which is pretty good. But what if I told you that after May 1st last season, Seager was on pace for .282/.335/.517 with 28 HR, 102 R, and 124 RBI. Is that something you would be interested in?
I thought so.
Add in a .303 BABIP compared to the .355 he carried in 2016 and you have a very interesting bounceback case. But this begs the question, what should we realistically expect from Corey Seager in 2020?
Let’s take a look at his batted ball profile:
2019 Batted Ball Profile
(stats via Fangraphs)
(EV/Barrel/LA vis Baseball Savant)
The first thing that jumps out may be the low Exit Velocity. It’s important to remember that Seager was coming back from both hip and elbow surgeries. This likely played a role in tempering his overall numbers.
As you can see in the chart below, Seager made significant progress as the season went on. This was especially true against offspeed and breaking pitches.
(chart from Baseball Savant)
Now let’s take a look at the launch angle (LA). This is especially important after the Dodgers made the decision to hire Robert von Scoyok last off-season. He is known as the “launch angle guru,” and former hitting coach for J.D. Martinez.
A bit more interested now?
Seager’s LA of 14.1 in 2019 was significantly higher than his career average, and well above the 10.2 he posted in 2016. This led to an increased fly ball rate of 39.2% (29.3% in 2016). I think it’s safe to assume that Seager was likely being coached to lift more baseballs into the air.
Considering that the 25-year-old (26 on April 27th) was a year removed from Tommy John surgery and just coming off hip surgery, the results were rather impressive.
Take a look at the season-long improvement in exit velocity in tandem with his new power approach at the plate. It’s very possible that most 2020 projections and rankings may be overlooking Seager’s value.
Did I mention he is just 25 years old?
2019 Plate Discipline
(data via Fangraphs)
All of Seager’s plate discipline metrics are not far off from league average. His O-Swing% (swings on pitches outside of the strike zone) was a tick better than league average, and 1.5% better than his 2016 season. But overall, most of these numbers line up with Seager’s career to date.
So what we have is a 25-year-old, near MVP, well over a year removed from hampering injury. He has the same plate discipline that made him a star, but could a new approach at the plate allow him to reach new heights?
I mentioned earlier in the article that Seager held a .303 BABIP last season. In 2016-2017, he carried a .355 and .352.
Now, a grain of salt. A new fly ball approach could certainly lower one’s BABIP, and that certainly could be what happened here. But consider the possibilities after a season of continuous improvement and a lost April. It makes you wonder. What if the old Seager and new Seager meet?
2020 Outlook for Corey Seager
Corey Seager made a conscious effort to hit for more power last season. Whether or not he did that at the expense of batting average has yet to be seen. But for our purposes, we are going to make that assumption.
But we will not ignore the improvements made as the season went along in exit velocity. Over a full healthy season, Seager could be on his way to delivering a .280 avg with 30-plus HR and setting yet another career-high in RBI.
Remember, the plate discipline remains the same. The talent remains the same. The only thing that has held Seager back in his career has been injuries.
Imagine a full season of healthy Corey Seager armed with a power-hitting approach. Do you still think he should be the 18th shortstop off the board in fantasy drafts? Do you still think he should be going near an ADP of 154?
If you enjoyed this player breakdown, you can read more of them on Twitter (@MattWi77iams) or under the hashtag #2020PlayerBreakdowns.