GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Corey Seager has done nothing this spring to indicate he isn’t pounding on the door of a major-league opportunity more than a month before his 21st birthday.
In 11 Cactus League games, Seager has a .500 on-base percentage and has carried himself with the calm and confidence of a 10-year major-league veteran, even teaming with reigning MVP Clayton Kershaw to form a top-seeded doubles team in the club’s annual table-tennis tournament.
But one question persists about the Los Angeles Dodgers' most exciting young player: Why have the Dodgers not begun what some people see as an inevitable conversion from shortstop to third base?
At 6-foot-4, Seager hardly profiles as your average major-league middle infielder, and a .947 career minor-league fielding percentage suggests there could be trouble ahead if he stays put. Hanley Ramirez ranked last among National League shortstops with a .961 fielding percentage last season.
The Dodgers are hoping the addition of four-time Gold Glove winner Jimmy Rollins to camp will give Seager a defensive role model. Seager towers over Rollins, who is listed at 5-8, when the two are taking ground balls together. Already, Rollins has said he has pulled Seager aside a few times to point out new ways of doing things. Specifically, Rollins has encouraged Seager to keep his legs under him while completing throws. Though he has a strong arm, many of Seager’s errors came on tough throws.
Rollins isn’t convinced Seager’s future is inevitably going to be at third base.
“I don’t see anything that can stop him from playing short if he wants to,” Rollins said. “Obviously, a young kid like that, the question is, ‘Is he going to continue to grow and get a little bigger and heavier?’ But if he stays where he is, he does everything right over there. He’s long, so he makes that throw seem short. Things that a shorter guy like myself would have to do, he doesn’t have to because he doesn’t take as many strides to get there.”
Seager, who was ranked the No. 5 prospect in baseball by ESPN’s Keith Law, figures to start 2015 in the minor leagues. His long-term future could hinge on what happens in Los Angeles. Both Rollins, 36, and Juan Uribe, 35, are free agents following this season, so where Seager plays might hinge on which -- if either -- player re-signs and how the organization views Seager’s fielding progress.
For now, the team professes no plans to move him.
“From the day that he signed, the first thing I ever read about him was that he was going to be too big for short,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Everything I ever read about him, someone always mentions that he’ll probably have to move to third. I’m wondering where that comes from. I’m like, ‘Is anybody watching this kid play short?’ Because I’m watching him play short and I’m thinking, ‘It looks like he can play short to me,’ but what do I know.”
Mattingly acknowledges Seager could one day outgrow the position. The composition of Seager’s body might be the ultimate indicator. The same height as Cal Ripken, Seager already weighs 15 pounds more than Ripken’s listed playing weight of 200 pounds.
“Also, you could see that and say, ‘Is that five years from now?’" Mattingly said.
Mattingly said Seager has skills that project him to remain at shortstop, including a strong arm and calm hands. He also said Seager’s demeanor gives him a head start on playing the infield’s most demanding position. It has also allowed Rollins to develop a relationship with him.
“If he was coming in here talking trash and doing all kinds of stuff and not doing his work, they might not want to help him,” Mattingly said. “The fact that he comes in here humble, works hard, quietly watches games, when he gets in you see him play, that makes you want to help this kid. If you’re honest, I think everyone in there, when they see him, thinks, ‘This kid’s special.’"
Rollins doesn’t disagree.
“He has a pretty solid hold on it,” he said.