This past season I was lucky enough to see the Dodgers second ranked prospect Corey Seager play a couple of games with the Great Lakes Loons. Seager had a solid season in his first full year of pro ball, hitting .309 with 12 home runs, 33 extra-base hits, with a .918 OBP to boot. The 19-year-old was promoted to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Single A Advanced) for the second half of the season. He’s currently playing in the Arizona Fall League for the Glendale Desert Dogs, and took part in last weekend’s Fall-Star Game. Having two brother also playing professional baseball must add to the pressure, but he seems to handle himself pretty well. Here is the interview from MiLB.com by Josh Jackson:
MiLB.com: It seems like this was a really big year for you on a lot of different levels, with you doing what you did in your first full pro season, with the Dodgers having the season they had and with the success of both of your brothers. Have you felt like it’s all been kind of a magical stretch?
Corey Seager: Yeah, you know, it feels like it’s been really crazy, actually. This was [Kyle’s] second full year in the Majors and he was looking to have a good year like he did. For me, I didn’t really have any expectations for myself other than to just play hard every day all season, and I ended up having a good year. I was just trying to get through the season. And it was awesome to see my middle brother get drafted and go to the Mariners and be in Kyle’s organization.
MiLB.com: How much are you able to pay attention to what they’re doing on any given night or week during the season?
Seager: I checked up on my eldest brother [Kyle] every night. We texted or talked every night or almost every night. I kept up with my middle brother [Justin] every week, usually on the weekend. When he was in school, it was hard to follow what he was doing when he had games in the middle of the week. But I’ve gotten really close to both my brothers over the last couple years. We’ve spent more time talking to each other and keeping up, and it’s been really fun.
MiLB.com: And what about following what goes on at the big league level? Obviously, your job is to stay locked in on your game, but, for example, when the Dodgers went on a 42-8 run, how tuned into that were you?
Seager: Yeah, I definitely follow the Dodgers. I was checking the box score every night. My brother [Kyle] gave me the good advice not to ever look ahead. He told me, ‘Make every level your Major Leagues. Don’t push, stay in the moment.’ That’s really good advice. I definitely checked the box scores but not for any other reason to see what they were doing. I checked, but I didn’t put much thought into what might be going on with them.
MiLB.com: Having so much going on on the periphery could be overwhelming for some players your age. Do you have to get into a certain mind-set to only take from that stuff the time and energy that will help you?
Seager: Yeah, for sure. You never want to root against anybody or anything like that, but you can’t get caught up in somebody else’s game. You root for everybody, but you really need to remember that the most important thing, by far, is to handle your own business.
MiLB.com: Since Justin joined the Mariners system, are you feeling a little outnumbered in the family? Are your parents going to root for Seattle harder than L.A.?
Seager: I’m pretty sure I’m going to get ganged up on during the holidays. That’s probably going to happen. But I was really excited for [Justin] when he got drafted. And I’m really looking forward to working out with both of them during the offseason. That should be good.
MiLB.com: Have you guys ever been on different teams in the same league growing up or did the age differences keep that from happening?
Seager: I’ve never played against them. I played with my middle brother in high school for two years but never against either one of them. If that happens, it definitely will be weird.
MiLB.com: Speaking of high school, when you were drafted last summer, were you tempted at all to go the college route? Or after you went where you went in the first round, did you know you wanted to jump in and start working on improving your game full-time?
Seager: You know, I was really excited to go to [the University of] South Carolina and I had a good relationship with South Carolina. I told them ahead of time, if it happens that I’m drafted between this spot and this spot, I’m going to sign. It did happen that I got drafted in those spots and once it happened, I was really glad it wasn’t [on the cusp of my limits], because that would have been a hard decision and I would have really had to think about it.
MiLB.com: Did you know what you wanted to study, if you were going to go to South Carolina?
Seager: Not really. That was something I was still kind of thinking about, still deciding.
MiLB.com: What you’ve been able to do as a pro shows you were ready. You had a pretty darn good first full season. Looking back, is there anything you would have liked to have done differently or any particular part of your game you wish you’d been able to develop more?
Seager: I had a pretty good year, fortunately. There’s not one specific thing I can look at and say I wish I’d done much better. Obviously, you’re always looking to improve on everything. I want to get faster on defense, get to some more balls and just kind of my overall game — there’s all kinds of things I want to improve on overall.
MiLB.com: Is that really what this experience in the AFL is all about for you?
Seager: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a quicker game. I’m getting used to that and working on improving everything against better quality players.
MiLB.com: I’ve heard that the AFL can be especially tough on guys who haven’t faced Double-A pitching before, because there are so many pitchers who can get younger batters to chase breaking pitches that start in the zone. Has that been kind of a challenge?
Seager: Yeah, for sure. Everybody here is a top guy in his organization. Every pitcher has good quality off-speed stuff and throws well and hits his spot. There’s a real difference with the control they have over all their stuff. I’m always hoping to swing at a strike, and [facing this high-quality pitching] changes your approach a little bit. You’ve got to be a little quicker. And you’ve also got to be quicker on defense. I think this is really improving where I’m going defensively.
MiLB.com: Is it kind of weird to be down there playing right now? The World Series just ended and now you guys are kind of the only game in town, the only pro ballplayers still playing competitive games in the States.
Seager: Well, I don’t know. It’s just, my year hasn’t ended. I’m grinding out the year. It’s definitely a little weird, kind of a weird feeling.
MiLB.com: And for a guy who’s just had his first full season — you’ve been playing almost every day for about eight months now, right?
Seager: This is definitely the longest I’ve ever played consistently. Everybody here is a little bit nicked up or has a little bit of fatigue. We’re all just trying to grind out at-bats and play the game right. A little fatigue is a part of it for everybody here.
MiLB.com: What’s the most fun you’ve had with a team?
Seager: Probably making the playoffs [this season], after playing that long season and then to get there. That was really fun.
MiLB.com: Did you go to a lot of Minor League games in Kannapolis growing up?
Seager: I went to a few Intimidators games but not many, really. I was pretty busy all the time playing ball as a kid, plus both my brothers were playing, so we were pretty busy during the baseball season.
MiLB.com: Did you have a favorite Major Leaguer growing up?
Seager: Derek Jeter, probably. I’d have to say Derek Jeter.
MiLB.com: Yeah, for a shortstop, that’s probably going to be the answer, right?
Seager: Well, yeah, he’s a good guy and he’s a good all-around player — he does everything right on the field.
MiLB.com: And if you weren’t a pro ballplayer, do you know what you’d want to be doing for a living?
Seager: Not really. No, I can’t answer that question for you. Sorry.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Yesterday was the Arizona Fall League‘s all-star game, properly termed the Fall-Star Game. The game is the half-way point of the AFL schedule for some of the best prospects in baseball. The game also featured two of this season’s most successful West Michigan Whitecaps players, and Detroit Tigers prospects. The West beat the East 9-2, but second baseman Devon Travis and relief pitcher Corey Knebel both made appearances. Travis went 1-2 with a triple and an RBI. Knebel pitched only 0.2 of an inning, giving up a home run, a solo shot, and striking out a batter.
Both players are suiting up for the Mesa Solar Sox this fall, a team that featured prospects from the Tigers, California Angels, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, and Washington Nationals. Travis is hitting .233, with two home runs, three doubles, and eight RBI’s. Knebel has a 1.50 ERA in eight games, with two saves, and seven strike outs. Three other former Whitecaps playing for Mesa are pitchers Tommy Collier (2012) and Kenny Faulk (2010), and shortstop Dixon Machado (2011). Collier has a 0.64 in four appearances, with 10 strike outs and giving up only one earned run. Faulk is 1-1, with a frightful 11.37 ERA. He did strike out eight and have one hold. Machado is batting .188 in only nine game, and added four RBI’s for his efforts. Other players in the Tigers system that are playing with the Solar Sox are pitcher Blaine Hardy and outfield Tyler Collins.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
The Detroit Tigers seem to have the pitching rotation for the 2013 season all but set. With Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, and Sanchez almost surely taking up the first four spots, the real competition will come down to the fifth starter. In the eyes of most fans and the Tigers front office, this looks to be a two-man race between Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello. Smyly, the lefty, did well last season, and would be the only south-paw in the rotation. Porcello is the kid with tons of talent, but his numbers could be better. He’s still young, though, and most fans feel his numbers would be much better is the Tigers were a little tighter in the infield. The two-man race aside, spring training is just around the corner, and usually their is a player or two who steps up and forces the coaches to take a good long look in his direction. This spring the guy who could turn some heads in Lakeland could be right-handed pitcher Luke Putkonen. No doubt the Tigers are high on this 6’6″, 210 pounder, and placed him in the Arizona Fall League last, well, fall, to hone some skills. Putkonen’s stats from the AFL aren’t amazing, posting a 5.06 ERA while allowing 19 hits and seven walks in 21 1/3 innings. Last season, he made 24 appearances (two of those starts) for the Toledo Mud Hens, with an ERA of 4.29. When called up to the Tigers, he appeared in 12 games, striking out 10 with a 3.94 ERA. It seems Putkonen needs to develop his secondary pitches to get outs, though, if he’s going to make that jump to the bigs permanent. Statistics show he throws his fastball 65% of the time, with an average speed of 94.6 mph. It also looks like working some long relief may be his calling, but don’t count him out as a starter. Recently Detroit’s assistant general manager Al Avila made some comments about him to the Detroit Free Press:
“He actually impressed us in the Fall League that we feel real good about Putkonen. I know Jim Leyland likes him and lot. He’s a real big guy with real good stuff. We’ve had many conversations about him being a starter or reliever. My thing is-this is just my philosophy-if you can keep a guy a starter and work with him as a starter and all of a sudden he shows he can be a starter, that’s the best-case scenario. If it doesn’t happen, you can always make him a reliever.”
It seems like Putkonen is already getting some positive attention, and it will be fun to watch him in Spring Training here in a few weeks. It’s no secret I love watching the guys we’ve seen play in West Michigan move up the ladder, and we wish him the best. He pitched for the Whitecaps back in 2009, going 7-8 with a 3.13 ERA and 63 strikeouts!
Photo courtesy of the Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Tigers top prospect Nick Castellanos went 2-5 in last nights Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. He batted fourth, and was the DH for the West team. His first hit was a shot to right-center off Twins’ prospect Kyle Gibson, and his second was a rip though the left side of the infield off Mariner prospect left-hander James Paxton. Playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, he’s hitting .239 with one home run and three RBI’s. In Lakeland this season, he hit .405 with three home runs, while in Erie he had an average of .264 and pounded seven homers. He played for the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2011, there he hit .312 with 76 RBI’s. He is joined on the Mesa team by some fellow Tiger prospects and Whitecaps alumni. Catching prospect James McCann is hitting 7 for 26 in ten AFL games. First baseman Aaron Westlake played for the Whitecaps this season, where he hit .249. For Mesa, he’s .220 with three home runs. Pitching prospect Luke Putkonen is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA, while striking out six batters. Relief pitcher Mike Morrison has appeared in eight games, only allowing three runs. Pitcher Matt Hoffman and Tyler Clark also play for Mesa.
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No, the AFL I’m refering to isn’t the spectacular Arena Football League that is currently on hiatus. It is the popular Arizona Fall League, where MLB teams send some of thier top prospects for more conditioning. One prospect the Detroit Tigers are keeping a close eye on is second baseban Scott Sizemore. Playing for the Peoria Javelinas, Sizemore has knocked in nine runs in only 15 at bats. Monday he went 3-4 and drove in four runs. The previous two games he hit three home runs. Sizemore is batting an impressive .375
“It’s been awesome,” Sizemore said of playing in Arizona. “Luckily I’ve kinda been getting the taste of it all. I take it the same way I went this season, take every at bat like it’s my last.”
This season splitting time between the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens and the Double-A Erie Seawolves, he hit a combined .308 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI’s. He also represented the Tigers at this years All-Star Futures game where he had a hit and run scored as a late-inning replacement at DH. Sizemore accomplished all of this while battling a sore left wrist after surgery in 2008.
The reason that the Tigers, specifically GM Dave Dombrowski, is so interested in Sizemore’s progress is simple: second baseman Placido Palonco is a free agent. If Detroit fails to re-sign Palanco, they’ll be losing one of the most reliable second baseman in the league. He rarely makes errors, rarely strikes out, and is one of the very few pure hitters in the Tigers line-up. I do give Dombrowski credit for pulling off the trade in 2005 to bring Palanco to Detroit for a pitcher who is currently doing time. Unfortunately, some not-so-spectacular deals and generous contract extentions have painted the Tigers into a financial corner. Too much money is tied up on players like Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson. Team owner Mike Illitch will have to dig deep into his pockets in order to re-sign Placido for next season.
Even if Palonco does return in 2010, it seems that Sizemore is the Tigers second baseman of the future.
“We think he’s ready to play, ” stated Dombrowski.
For the Tigers sake, and yours, Dave, I hope you’re right.
UPDATE: Sizemore broke his ankle on Thursday turning a double play, and will miss the rest of the AFL Season.
Photos courtesy of TigsTown