By Gary Hill
Kyle Seager has been feasting on pitching. The sizzling third baseman is hitting .384 with five homers and 12 RBIs in July. His numbers rank with the very best in the American League for the month.
Mike Trout leads the league in OPS in July (1.078) followed by Edwin Encarnacion (1.065), Seager (1.060) and Miguel Cabrera (1.059). Seager has pushed his season average up to .293 to go along with his 16 homers and 48 RBIs.
Seager has taken another step forward after a solid first campaign in the big leagues. He swatted 20 homers a year ago while driving in 86 runs. He hit .259 in 155 games.
His rapid development has made me wonder exactly where his ceiling is, so I took the question to the people during the postgame show on Saturday. The question I asked was, "Who do you think Kyle Seager will become as a hitter?"
The response was fascinating. Here is a list of just a few of the players people mentioned during the show:
Aramis Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, David Wright, Jim Presley, Shawn Green, Brooks Robinson, Wade Boggs, Ron Cey, Alex Gordon , Gary Gaetti, Graig Nettles, Matt Williams, Craig Biggio, Lou Whitaker, David Bell, Andy Van Slyke, Pete Rose. Chipper Jones, Eric Chavez, Ryne Sandberg, Paul Molitor, B.J. Surhoff and dozens of others. Many of these names were volleyed in several times.
The quality of the list is surely a compliment to what he has achieved and what is possible down the road for the young slugger. However, there were three names that rose to the top when projecting Seager.
The former UCLA standout developed into one of the best hitters in the game for a seven-year period before injuries slowed him down. He finished among the top 10 in MVP voting three times and he secured five straight All-Star selections. He was a vital middle-of-the-order bat for a Phillies team that appeared in the postseason five straight seasons and reached the World Series in 2008 and 2009. They claimed the crown when they took out Tampa Bay in 2008.
Utley scored over 100 runs three times, whacked over 20 homers five times, drove in over 100 runs four times and hit over .290 four times. His best season was arguably in 2007, when he hit .332/.410/.566 with 22 home runs, 103 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 104 runs and 48 doubles.
Utley broke into the big leagues in 2003. Here is how his first three years stack up next to Seager's:
Utley, 2003: 152 PA, .239/.322/.373, 2 HR, 21 RBI
Seager, 2011: 201 PA, .258/.312/.379, 3 HR, 13 RBI
Utley, 2004: 287 PA, .266/.308/.468, 13 HR, 57 RBI
Seager, 2012: 651 PA, .259/.316/.423, 20 HR, 86 RBI
Utley, 2005: 628 PA, .291/.376/.540, 28 HR, 105 RBI, 39 2B
Seager, 2013: 449 PA, .293/.356/.481, 16 HR, 48 RBI, 26 2B
The 2013 season for Seager still has two months to go so he has a chance to run down Utley in some of the counting stats. One wonders if Seager is sitting on the same escalator Utley rode. In 2006, at age 27, Utley put together a massive season, hitting .309 with 32 home runs, 102 RBIs, 131 runs, 40 doubles and 15 stolen bases. Perhaps Seager is sitting on a similar season in 2014 as a 26-year-old.
The constantly underrated Anderson was one of the best pure hitters of his generation. He was a key cog for an Angels team that won it all in 2002. He was often overshadowed by fellow Angels sluggers Tim Salmon, Troy Glaus and Darin Erstad, but his production should never be overlooked.
Anderson was a lifetime .293 hitter in 17 MLB seasons. He launched 287 career homers while ripping 522 doubles. He was a two-bag machine. He led the AL in doubles two years in a row (56 in 2002 and 49 in 2003). He only hit more than 30 home runs in a season one time, but he hit at least 16 homers nine times. He drove in over 100 runs on four occasions.
Anderson's best season came in 2002 when he hit .306 and belted 29 homers, hit 56 doubles, and drove in 123 runs. One of the few faults in Anderson's game was that he was not one to walk much. Seager took 46 free passes last season, which is more than Anderson ever was issued in any single season.
Nevertheless, the power profile for Seager projects to be very similar to Anderson. Here is the 162-game average for Anderson in his career: .293, 21 home runs, 99 RBIs and 38 doubles. The prospect of Seager turning into Anderson is exciting, but the potential of him turning into more is exhilarating.
Brett was the name that was mentioned during the show the most by a large amount, which is a compliment to Seager of the highest order. Brett is one of the best third basemen and most accomplished hitters to ever play the game.
The former MVP made 13 straight trips to the All-Star game. He won three batting titles, including in 1980 when he hit .390. He lead the AL in doubles twice in his career and reached the 40-plateau five times. He launched over 20 homers eight times, including a career-high 30 in 1985. He racked up 3,154 career hits and scored 1,583 runs.
He is a Hall of Famer who played 21 years in the majors. He hit .370 in the 1985 World Series as the Royals vanquished the St. Louis Cardinals.
Here is how Brett's first three seasons compare to Seager's:
Brett, 1973: 41 PA, .125/.125/.175, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Brett, 1974: 486 PA, .282/.313/.363, 2 HR, 47 RBI, 21 2B
Seager, 2011: 201 PA, .258/.312/.379, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 13 2B
Brett, 1975: 697 PA, .308/.353/.456, 11 HR, 90 RBI, 35 2B
Seager, 2012: 651 PA, .259/.316/.423, 20 HR, 86 RBI, 35 2B
Brett, 1976: 705 PA, .333/.377/.462, 7 HR, 67 RBI, 34 2B
Seager, 2013: 449 PA, .293/.356/.481, 16 HR, 48 RBI, 26 2B
This is not a comparison I take lightly. I generally do not make it a practice to compare young players to Hall of Famers because of how unlikely it actually is to achieve that type success. Not only was Brett the name that came up most often during the show, but I was convinced to consider the comparison in a separate conversation over the weekend when the name "Brett" was dropped in relation to Seager by someone I trust.
The fact that Seager can even be compared to Brett at this stage of his career should make Mariners fans smile. The chances of him reaching Brett's ultra-elite level are slim, but landing anywhere close will make him one of the best hitters in the game. Whether it be Brett, Anderson, Utley or someone unnamed, it appears the Mariners have a key piece to build their lineup around.
Who do you think Seager can be? Please tweet me or leave a comment because I would love to know what you think.