For the better part of 2 seasons, Mariners’ third baseman Kyle Seager has been a disappointment. That is the best adjective to describe his 2017 season. His 2018 season was downright bad.
And to his credit, Seager did what he always does: he went to work. This time, he changed his body, trying to gain flexibility and altering his swing to give the Mariners the best version of his 31-year-old self. The change was noticeable and Seager was quickly the most talked-about position player in Spring Training.
Then, Seager hit the IL for the first time of his career, after sustaining a hand injury diving for a ball in a spring training game. The debut of the “new” Kyle would be delayed 2 months until May 25th. And upon his return, Seager was pretty consistently mediocre.
In his first 45 games of 2019, Seager hit .188/.263/.335 and fans were desperate to find a way to end the Seager era in Seattle. But since then, things have changed. In his last 19 games, Seager has hit .364/.432/.803 with 8 home runs, 7 walks, and 3 doubles.
More importantly, the underlying numbers suggest this is a bit more than a hot streak. His average exit velocity is in line with his monster 2016, as is his barrel rate. His barrel percentage is up nearly 3 percent from last season.
He is also hitting the ball the other way more often. His oppo rate is up 4% from 2018 and the eye test tells you he is hitting the ball with authority in that direction. Seager’s batted ball profile is similar to 2017, which may not seem like a big deal, but with Seager’s defense, that is still the profile of a 3.5 fWAR.
Entering Wednesday’s game, Seager was slashing .237/.311/.466 and while that isn’t great, it is more than 100 points higher in OPS than in 2018 and a solid 107 wRC+.
It is unlikely that Seager can carry this production level through the final 6 weeks of 2019 but he doesn’t have to. Even if he finishes the season with his current slash line, that is a step in the right direction.
The rest of 2019 is important for Seager to continue to hit and not to raise his trade value as some of you are guessing. Seager will almost certainly start 2020 in Seattle and at his age and position, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility he is around for the first year or two of the Mariners window.
Trading him isn’t a reasonable expectation right now and giving Seager another full off-season to build on this success could lead him back to the 4 win player we know and love. For now, Kyle is showing Mariners fans that he can still play. Whether or not it will continue, we can only wait.