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February 12, 2015 at 11:36 AM

Mariners’ 2015 spring training position preview: Kyle Seager’s continued growth at third base

Seattle Times photo/Mark Harrison

Seattle Times photo/Mark Harrison

Much like Wednesday’s position preview on second base, the preview of third base might be just as easy to write. After signing a seven-year, $100 million contract extension this offseason, Kyle Seager is locked in as the Mariners’ third baseman. Seager was never a big prospect or even considered to be a prototypical third baseman. But he was given an opportunity to take ownership of the job, and he produced. This past season he appeared in his first all-star game and won his first gold glove.  He is one of the best hitters that the Mariners have drafted and developed in the past decade. And he’s not going anywhere for a long time.

Don’t expect Seager to get complacent with his big contract.

“He’s committed to what he wants to accomplish,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I know this contract is right because he’s not motivated by money. He’s motivated to be the best third baseman in baseball. He’ll continue in that quest.”

The past

AP file photo

AP file photo

 

Here’s his career stats from Baseball Reference ….

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Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 11.17.04 AM

 

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Seager’s accomplishments this past season are wide-ranging. Let’s take a look at some of the notes from the Mariners’ season-in-review publication.

  • The Totals – Appeared in 159 games, making 158 starts (3B-157, DH-1), hitting .268 (158×590) with 71 runs, 27 doubles, 4 triples, 25 home runs & 96 RBI.
  • Team Leader – Led the team in games played (159), home runs (25), RBI (96), extra-base hits (56), T1st in slugging (.454), 2nd in at-bats (590), runs (71), hits (158), walks (52), T2nd in doubles (27) and triples (4).
  • All-Star – Selected to the American League All-Star team (replaced Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion).
  • Gold Glove Winner – Named Rawlings Gold Glove winner, edging out  Josh Donaldson (OAK) and Adrian Beltre (TEX).
  • 2-Time AL Player of the Week – Was a two-time American League Player of the Week: April 21-27 (.409/9×22, 8 R, 5 HR, 11 RBI) and June 23-29 (.583/14×24, 5 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI)…first Mariners player since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 to earn multiple Player of the Week honors in the same season.
  • The Hot Corner – Among AL third basemen, ranked 2nd in games (159), home runs (25), RBI (96), T2nd in hits (158), 3rd in slugging (.454), 4th in runs (71), 7th in doubles (27).
  • Hot Corner Clout – Finished with 25 home runs and 96 RBI … his 96 RBI were 3rd-most in club history by a third baseman: Jim Presley, 109 in 1986 & Adrian Beltre, 98 in 2007…joins Presley in 1986 as only primary 3B to lead the Mariners in RBI…25 HR ranked T4th-most by third baseman in club history with Beltre (2006 & 2008), trailing Presley (28 in 1985 & 27 in 1986) & Beltre (26 in 2007)…Seager’s .788 OPS was 6th-highest among MLB third baseman, 3rd-best in AL behind Adrian Beltre and Josh Donaldson.
  • 25-25-90 – Became the 15th Mariners player to record a 25 double-25 home run-90 RBI season and the first since Jose Lopez in 2009.
  • Iron Man – Played the final 126 games of the season (since May 11)…the consecutive games played streak is the 6th-longest active streak in the Majors.
  • The Glove – Led Major League third basemen with a .981 fielding percentage, the best single-season fielding percentage by a third baseman in club history (Jeff Cirillo, .973 in 2002), and the 10th-best in American League history since 1948.
  • The Fielding Bible – Led AL third basemen with a plus-24 rating in runs saved (Oakland’s Josh Donaldson at plus-21)…The Fielding Bible showed he led all Major League third basemen in good throws to first, leading AL third basemen with a 96.6-percent “good throw” rate.
  • Heart & Hustle – Mariners nominee for the Heart and Hustle Award, as voted on by Alumni and active Major League players and is presented annually to an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.
  • 20 x 3 – Is the first Mariners player since Raul Ibañez (2005-2008) to record 20+ HR in at least 3 consecutive seasons and joins Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Presley as the only Mariners players with 20+ HR in 3 of first 4 MLB seasons (20 in ‘12, 22 in ‘13).
  • Safeco Production – Hit 16 homers at Safeco Field which is T7th-most in ballpark history and his 53 RBI are T11th-most in ballpark history…overall at home hit .300 (83×277) with 34 runs, 12 doubles, 1 triple, 16 home runs, 53 RBI, .370 on-base percentage and a .523 slugging percentage.
  • Extra Bases – Tied a club record with 4 extra-base hits and 2 triples on June 2 at New York (AL)…went 4-for-5 with 3 runs, a double, 2 triples, a home run and 3 RBI…became the first Major Leaguer to hit 2 triples and at least one homer and one double since Hal Breeden for Montreal in 1973…last AL player to do it was Hoot Evers for Detroit in 1950.
  • 4-Game Stretch – Recorded 5 home runs and 11 RBI over a 4-game stretch April 23-27 (.533/8×15)…only other Mariners player with as many hits, RBI and home runs over a 4-game stretch was Ken Griffey Jr. (May 21-4, 1996: .556/10×18, 5 HR, 12 RBI).

That’s not a bad little season for Seager.  He was consistent. He was productive. He was a great 1-2 punch with Robinson Cano in the lineup.

The present 

Seattle Times file photo

Seattle Times file photo

One of the more admirable things about Seager is his willingness to evaluate himself as a player. He recognizes his strengths and weaknesses. From there, he analyzes what makes them strengths and weaknesses and looks to fix the problems.

A few years ago it was the conditioning to withstand the rigors of playing 150-plus games in a season and adjusting a few things to find even more consistency at the plate. Last season, Seager wanted to make strides on defense. He worked on his footwork and put in long hours with infield coach Chris Woodward to become one of the better-fielding third basemen in the big leagues.

So what is Seager going to work on this season? Well, we saw one of the focuses at the end of last season – spraying the ball to all fields. Seager has power to right field when he pulls the ball. But we saw teams put shifts on him, basically daring him to hit the ball to the overloaded right field. At first, Seager remained stubborn, trying to find ways to beat the shift on the right-field side. Eventually he began to see that he needed to start hitting the ball to left field to become a more complete hitter.

McClendon challenged him on that last season.

“They are basically saying you aren’t a good enough hitter to beat the shift,” McClendon said.

Seager began to use the whole field, and his numbers made a huge jump. After an offseason of continuing to work on it, there is a chance Seager could push his batting average to the .280s. McClendon has been adamant that Seager is better than a .260 hitter. McClendon also said he could see Seager, who has worked on getting stronger each offseason, pushing his home-run total to 30 in the next season or two.

It seems likely that  McClendon will bat Seager fifth behind Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz this season.

If Seager’s batting average goes up and his slugging numbers continue to rise, he could earn even more accolades.

“I think Kyle has the type of personality and work ethic that should take him to an MVP-type of season,” McClendon said. “Hell, he can (win an MVP) next year if he wants. It wouldn’t bother me one bit.”

The future

Seattle Times file photo/Mark Harrison

Seattle Times file photo/Mark Harrison

With Seager locked up at third base for the next seven years, that means that top prospect  D.J. Peterson likely will have to find a different position in the big leagues. Drafted out of the University of New Mexico with the 12th overall pick in 2013, Peterson has remained adamant that he’s a third baseman. This offseason he worked extensively at third base trying to become more consistent with his footwork and fundamentals.

But Peterson also knows that his path to the big leagues might be at first base. He played 19 games there last season and played there in college and with Team USA.

“I want to play third, like I’ve said from the time I got drafted,” he said. “But if they said, ‘We want you to catch,’ I would catch. There wouldn’t be any adjustment. I’d go right over.”

The expectation is that Peterson will start the season with Class AAA Tacoma and play the majority of games at third base with Jesus Montero likely on the Rainiers roster. Peterson will play a handful of games at first base and work there daily as part of his routine. But his background with first base doesn’t make playing there every day a priority. Also having Peterson play third base gives them an option if Seager were to somehow get injured for an extended period.

It’s hard to put a timetable on Peterson’s MLB debut. But the Mariners aren’t going to make the mistake of rushing him without reason. It  depends on how he performs in Tacoma. The other aspect that might expedite his debut would be an injury to first baseman Logan Morrison, which isn’t implausible.

When the Rickie Weeks signing becomes official, that will give the Mariners another option for a short term, backup third baseman. Weeks has never actually played third base in a game in the big leagues. But I’m guessing we will see him working at third base this spring to give McClendon an option if he wants to give Seager a day off or a DH day.

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