The California League is a fun place to hit and a miserable place to pitch. It's a great place to gain your confidence as a hitter and lose it as a pitcher. It's a great place to emerge as a hitting prospect and deflate as a pitching prospect, perhaps neither being as warranted as the numbers might suggest. Much like the offensive environment, or opinions about prospects can often get extreme based on what they do in the California League.
Corey Seager is not one of those players whose status as a prospect is being inflated by hitting in the California League, though his numbers certainly are. Anyone hitting .352/.411/.633 at any level is getting some help from somewhere, whether it's BABIP luck, good hitting environments, or a favorable touch from the baseball gods. Still, we can't discount Seager's raw abilities just because he's putting up monster numbers in the California League.
There are some questions about whether the Dodgers will be able to keep Seager at short stop or eventually shift to third base like his brother Corey, a major league all-star with the Mariners. Even my co-workers at Baseball Prospects have differing opinions on the matter. What no one disagrees with, however, is that Seager is going to hit, though the question remains just how much.
We're going to get a better answer to that question soon. While Seager put up strong numbers in the Midwest League as an 18-year-old in 2013, his ridiculous production this season can't help but skew our view of him, no matter how much scouts attempt to be impartial to results. But his time terrorizing California League pitching is over, with the biggest challenge waiting ahead.
After a longer-than-normal all-star break, where the Dodgers are allowing him to remain in Minnesota (where he played in the Future's Game) to watch his brother take play in the All-Star game. He's already been promoted, however, and after the break, he'll head to Double-A Chattanooga.
This will be the big test for Seager. Not only is he leaving behind the friendly confines of the California League and going to a more neutral hitting context, but the jump to Double-A is generally considered the most difficult for hitters. A prospect of Seager's caliber, or at least the caliber we believe him to be, should be able to handle the jump as so many prospects do, but expectations must be tempered well below the bar he set for himself in the first half.
Seager could struggle initially in Double-A, much as he did in his first brief stint in High-A last season. Seager's biggest flaw as a hitter is his aggressive approach, and Double-A is the first level where pitcher's are equipped to exploit that. The breaking balls are better and pitchers have a plan, which can take advantage of reactionary hitters who fail to adjust. Seager wouldn't be the first prospect, or the best, to struggle in his initial attempt to hit Double-A pitching until he makes an adjustment.
Regardless of his initial success or failure, we'll know a lot more about Seager after the next two months. The results are not important, but how he handles a higher level of pitching in a less forgiving environment will be telling. Seager is going to be a major league hitter, but his ability to handle more advanced pitching, primarily more advanced off-speed pitches and more prepared pitchers, will let us know whether he's a star in the making or if his ceiling falls somewhere lower.
Either way, we'll have a better idea of what kind of prospect he is now that he's leaving the California League behind.