By Brent Stecker
Of all the Mariners’ young everyday players, Kyle Seager had the least hype surrounding him on his way to the big leagues.
Justin Smoak was the first baseman of the future who was equally adept with his bat and his glove. Jesus Montero had the kind of light-tower-power that managers dream of building a lineup around. And Dustin Ackley was penciled in to be the top-of-the-order anchor that took over where Ichiro Suzuki left off.
Kyle Seager has become one of the M’s best hitters. (AP)
As for Seager, he was simply Ackley’s college teammate at North Carolina who was drafted into Mariners system in 2009 two rounds after they took Ackley. Not much was expected of the third baseman, so Mariners fans would be happy to take what they could get from him.
Apparently what they could get from him was a whole lot of production, especially compared to the other three.
All four players have at least a full year in a Mariners uniform under their belts, but it’s the left-handed-hitting Seager that has emerged as the most consistent hitter, leading the team in home runs (20) and RBIs (86) in 2012, and this season in batting average (.293) and RBIs (16) though Sunday.
While Smoak, Montero and Ackley may show glimpses of potential every so often, the 25-year-old Seager has become a reliable staple near the top of the Mariners lineup. And he still has room to grow, as Bleacher Report’s Will Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Seattle Sports at Night” last week.
“I really like Seager. I think he could take a step up,” Carroll said. “He’s gonna be the the kind of guy that every couple years things are gonna click. He’s gonna get lucky, he’s gonna have those extra hits, and he’s gonna find himself (hitting) .280, .290 with 20 to 25 home runs, and really be a guy that you say, ‘Wow, this is the guy that had the year that helped the team.'”
The other three players can’t be completely written off yet, though Smoak isn’t helping matters with a .236 average, one home run and five RBIs. Ackley has started to show signs of life, though, getting his average above .250 and hitting his first career grand slam in Saturday’s 8-1 win over Toronto, and the 23-year-old Montero has proven he still has access to monster power, like his moonshot against Houston on April 22.
Still, the Mariners haven’t been able to develop their prize prospects quite like the fan base wants them to. But if there’s one player Mariners fans can find solace in, it’s Seager.
Yes, he dealt with his own share of troubles at the plate early on, hitting just .147 after the first nine games. But whereas Smoak, Montero and Ackley continued to struggle throughout the first month of the season, Seager reeled off a 16-game hitting streak, raised his average to as high as .306 on April 25 and took the team lead in RBIs.
Considering his track record, the question isn’t whether Seager can keep producing at the Major League level, but rather, what is his ceiling?
Whatever it is, Mariners fans should be happy to take it. After all, he was just supposed to be that guy who played with Ackley in college.