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February 20, 2012 at 8:55 AM

Mariners infielder Kyle Seager awaits his chance, just not sure where that will be

Kyle Seager is in for an interesting spring. The news yesterday that Chone Figgins will be the team’s primary third baseman means Seager will be squeezed for playing time.
That time will either come at the major league level on days Figgins isn’t manning the bag at third. Or, much more likely, it will come at Class AAA, where he can continue to develop on a daily basis.
If a final decision has been made, I’m not aware of it. I’ll try to pin some officials down more on this today, but you’d have to think they are leaning towards Seager starting off in the minors at this point — barring a complete vault to the next level this spring.
I chatted with Seager about his expectations going into this year.
“They’ve kind of prepared me for everything,” he said. “Be ready to play third. Be ready to play multiple positions and then we’ll kind of just see where we’re at in the end.
“But I’ve been preparing to play multiple positions.”
Those will include third base, second base and shortstop.
“After last year, getting to do it a little bit, I feel much more comfortable with all three of them,” he said.

Now, the Mariners will have to see whether Seager can do it better than other guys they have in camp. The backups at the infield spots will come from two of the trio combo of Carlos Guillen, Munenori Kawasaki and Luis Rodriguez, all of them on minor league deals.
There is also Alex Liddi, but he has a ton of work to do with making more contact and — barring a miraculous spring — he will be doing it in AAA.
All of this stuff I’m writing now is predicated on players performing at expected levels. Naturally, if Liddi, or Seager sets the world on fire these next five weeks, the team will have to adjust and find a spot. Setting the world on fire doesn’t just mean posting good Cactus League stats. It means demonstrating that they will be able to make consistent contact and get on base when the games begin to count.
Huge difference.
Also, if Guillen gets hurt this spring, or falls off a cliff production-wise, he’ll be out of the equation. If Kawasaki shows he flat-out can’t handle the majors, he’d be removed from the mix as well.
But safe to say, the team does not expect that to happen.
So, back to Seager.
If the team goes with a Figgins-Guillen combo at third, he’d be off to the minors. There just aren’t enough opportunities for reps be had playing behind Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan.
Likewise, if the team wants to keep Kawasaki, Seager almost certainly goes to the minors as well. That’s because the limited middle infield backup time would go to Kawasaki and Seager would be reduced to two or three games per week behind Figgins.
I just don’t see the Mariners limiting a still-developing player to that small number of games.
For Seager to make this team, he’d likely have to get some shot at third base time and then hope to squeeze out a game or two extra at second or shortstop. That way, you could get him up to four games per week — maybe even five.
But at two games per week? You’d have to think he’d be better off in the minors.
If I had to handicap it right now, I’d say Kawasaki gets the backup middle infield job and Guillen the corner spots. That’s the other thing with Guillen — and L-Rod for that matter. They can both play first base. Seager cannot.
If Seager does make the team, he’d be the backup at third, short and second while Guillen or L-Rod would be the primary first base backup and Kawasaki would be headed to the minors.
So, those are pretty much the options. Now, Seager has to wait and see. He’ll also have to take care of his own business and show he’s better than the player who hit .258 with a .691 on-base-plus-slugging percentage last season — a fair chunk of those totals piled up in one off-the-charts series.
Seager spent the off-season doing plenty of speed training at a facility in North Carolina.
“I wanted to get stronger and more explosive,” he said. “It’s like a speed and agility training facility.”
Getting stronger can only help a player who doesn’t profile as a typical third base power guy. Seager has also made some minor adjustments at the plate so he can drive the ball with a bit more authority.
But he’ll never be a home run bopper.
He’s always been a line drive, gap-type hitter and that’s not about to change. The slight adjustments are just to get him to hit those same line drives with a bit more zip to them. Remember, the hits that drop in at the minor league level don’t always come in the majors because the defenders are quicker. So, if you hit the ball harder, it has a better chance of getting by those defenders.
Seager spent last season soaking in what some of the best hitters in the majors do to be successful. And that’s a big reason he isn’t trying to change his game.
“The best hitters, they know what they are,” he said. “They don’t try to do things that aren’t them. If they’re power guys, they figure out how to hit for power consistently. Average-double-guys, they figure out how to do that. A guy who can run a little bit, they figure out how to do more with that. They know what they are and they’ve gotten very consistent doing what they do.”
So, in Seager’s words, what is he?
“I think I’m more of an average-to-double guy,” he said. “I’m not a power hitter by any means. So, you just kind of know what you are and don’t try to do too much and be someone you’re not. You just try to be yourself.”

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins


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