In what may have been one of the quickest stints through the minors in a while, the Mariners called up infielder Kyle Seager from Triple-A Tacoma following their 2-0 loss to the A's on Wednesday.
After a disappointing game in which the offense was shut out on just two hits the entire afternoon, you had to feel like the M's were desperate for anything that could help jump-start this anemic offense. They had wasted yet another brilliant performance from their starters (this time Jason Vargas) and came up with nothing to show for it.
Enter Kyle Seager, age 23, the supposed savior of the offense. About two weeks ago, he was still playing at the Double-A level for the Jackson Generals before being called up to Tacoma. Now 55 Triple-A at-bats later, Seager is at the cusp of major league action.
This season in Double-A, Seager hit for a .312 with four home runs, 25 doubles, and 26 walks to 38 strikeouts in 266 at-bats. Then in a couple weeks in Tacoma, Seager set the Pacific Coast League on fire, hitting for .455 average with two home runs and an insane .673 slugging percentage.
Seager's surge through the minor leagues is truly remarkable, and his early call-up seemingly a bit premature. Prior to ascending to the Triple-A level, I ranked Seager No. 9 among M's prospects (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/748616-seattle-mariners-ranking-nick-franklin-and-the-top-ten-prospects-post-ackley) while the Mariners official site did not even have him in their top-10.
However, the M's were not foolish with their decision to promote Seager. The difference and advantage Seager holds over nearly every prospect in the organization is his refined discipline at the plate. In other words, his strike zone discipline allows him to strike out a lot less than others.
After walking 26 times to just 38 strikeouts in half a season in Double-A, Seager showed his patience with five walks to six strikeouts in Tacoma.
In a spring training game where Seager faced fellow Mariner Felix Hernandez, he displayed this very discipline, soliciting rare praise from Felix:
"I throw a good pitch—a changeup—that any big-leaguer swings at, and he takes it," said Hernandez to the Seattle Times' Larry Stone of Seager's at-bat. "It's a 1-1 count. I say, 'Boy, you are good, man.'"
Seager ended up with a single off of Hernandez.
His disciplined approach at the plate has even drawn comparisons to fellow Tar Heel alum Dustin Ackley, and if Seager can come close to what Ackley has accomplished for the M's, he will undoubtedly give the toothless offense some kick.
In fact, listening to an interview with Tar Heel coach Mike Fox, the two are remarkably similar in nearly everything, including their line drive power and maturity.
The proposal of calling up Seager had been floating around the M's blogging community recently, but the team accomplished more than just trying his bat out.
Seager has been known to be an above-average defense at several infield positions—third base, shortstop and second base.
At third base, the advantage is giving Adam Kennedy more days off without requiring Chone Figgins, his error-prone defense and 1-for-25 ongoing batting streak. Alex Liddi, the other M's third base prospect, has plate-discipline issues, so Seager seemed the more MLB-ready.
At shortstop, Seager gives Brendan Ryan some days off without Jack Wilson's terrible bat and also makes Wilson possibly expendable at the trade deadline. Seager would give the M's a possible left-handed option as opposed to the right-handed Ryan.
Ackley has second base locked down, but Seager could come in and play second if the staff were to try to move Ackley around.
Then, there's the option that trade-happy fans will be eager to hear. This is purely speculative, but if Seager can show he can be adequate at the major league level, the M's suddenly have a huge asset on their hands to make a run at a slugger for trade.
Then again, if they find a productive hitter in Seager, they might be better off keeping the youngster. You have to feel like Jack Z wanted to see what the players brought in on his watch (Ackley, Smoak, Seager) could do at the major league level, and Seager could be his latest success.
Tomorrow, Seager is set to face the dominant Angels ace Jered Weaver and his sub-2.00 ERA, so his major league debut will absolutely be a baptism by fire.
But for now, the youth movement rolls right along with infielder Kyle Seager the new flavor of the month.