*Updated June 11, 2014 at 4:00 PM
It’s one thing to read about Corey Seager’s mammoth home runs with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, but it’s something entirely different to see them in person. They are, in a word, jaw-dropping. (Okay, that’s two words – but you get the point).
Even though Seager, who was selected by the Dodgers as the 18th overall pick in the 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft out of Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, NC, is only 20 years old, he is extremely mature for his age and has a tremendous baseball swagger about him – this, no doubt, because he comes from a baseball family. (He is the younger brother of Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager).
After being drafted by the Dodgers, Seager signed three weeks later and began his professional career with the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer Rookie League as an 18-year-old, where he hit .309 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs, thus confirming that the Dodgers scouting staff had done their pre-draft homework on Corey.
At 19 years old, the 6′ 4″ 215-pound shortstop began the 2013 season with the Dodgers Low Single-A Great Lakes Loons where he once again hit .309 – this time with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs and proving yet again that his skill level was well beyond his years.
In August of 2013, Seager was promoted to the Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, becoming the youngest player in the California League. At Rancho and for the first time in his young professional career, Seager struggled. In his 56 games with the Quakes, Seager hit only .160 with four home runs and 15 RBIs. On the other side of the ball, Seager committed eight errors in 93 chances for a rather dismal .914 fielding percentage. It was a reality check for the young shortstop for whom, to this point, everything had come relatively easy.
But struggling in the minor leagues isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti sees it as a good thing.
“Corey’s got a chance to be a great player,” said Colletti last September after the Quakes had concluded their season. “He went to Rancho and he struggled for a while, which everybody said ‘Oh jeez he wasn’t ready’ and I said ‘I’m not sure he’s ready or not, I’m not judging that.’
“But I wasn’t put off that he struggled,” Colletti added. “Because up here [in the major leagues] there’s going to be those days, and if you’ve never done it before, if you’ve never had to figure your way out of a slump or you’ve never had to try to figure out what you need to get better at because the game has come easy to you, this is the wrong place to be trying to figure it out for the first time.”
After representing the Dodgers in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, Seager began the 2014 season back at Rancho Cucamonga – but this time it was different. Now 20 years old, Seager began tearing it up against Cal League pitching – so well, in fact, that during the month of May he batted .400 (44-for-110), hit six home runs, 15 doubles and drove in 24 runs – all of which earned him a spot on the 2014 California League All-Star roster and a trip to Wilmington, Delaware to face the Carolina League All-Stars on June 17.
During one stretch in May, Seager had a 12-game hitting streak in which he went 25-for-50 with four home runs, nine doubles and 13 RBIs. On May 31 he fell a triple shy of the cycle against the first place Lancaster JetHawks (Astros). In that game Seager went 3 for 5 including a two-run home run off of JetHawks ace and 2012 number one draft pick Mark Appel. Seager knocked in five of the Quakes 16 runs in their eventual 16-13 win over the JetHawks.
With only four games remaining until the All-Star break Seager is second in the Cal League with his .342 batting average. He leads the league with his 24 doubles, .615 slugging percentage, 1.004 OPS and 144 total bases. He is sixth in home runs with 12 and seventh in RBIs with 49.
The point to all of this is that Corey Seager fans living in the Southern California area who want to see him play live and in person better head out to JetHawks Stadium (aka “The Hangar”) in Lancaster tonight through Saturday night because Seager will, in all likelihood, be promoted to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts after (or shortly after) next week’s Cal League All-Star break. This could very well be the last time for Southern California Corey Seager fans to see the young superstar until he reaches the major leagues, which many experts believe is still two seasons away. (I say he makes it up at some point during the 2015 season).
But wait… there’s more!
Tonight’s four-game series opener against the JetHawks will feature left-handed 17-year-old Mexican phenom Julio Urias on the mound for the Quakes, and Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley is slated to make his second rehab start for the Quakes on Friday night (followed by Dodgers 2013 second round draft pick Tom Windle). Fireballers Jharel Cotton and Fabio Martinez will toe the rubber for the Quakes on Thursday and Saturday nights respectively. The aforementioned Mark Appel is scheduled to start for the JetHawks on Thursday night.
The Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night games start at 6:30 PM and Saturday night’s game at 6:00 PM.
*Updated June 11, 2014 at 4:00 PM:
Chad Billingsley was shut down after his bullpen session at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday due to elbow irritation. He is reportedly returning to Los Angeles to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache.