As shortstop week rolls on here at FakeTeams, I have been assigned the uncharitable burden of comparing two of my favorite prospects in the lower minors. That might not seem so bad to some, and in reality it's not, but in my world it's akin to a parent being asked to choose which child they love most (it's important to note here that I don't have even one child, so this is probably not remotely the same concept...but then again, probably it is). So it's without delay that we rend my prospect heart in two, and pit it against itself in our comparison of Addison Russell and Corey Seager.
Let's begin with Russell, because he was drafted first and he'd go first alphabetically by first and/or last name. Popped with the 11th overall pick, Russell was billed as questionable to stay at short despite impressive dedication to dropping weight so that he could continue to play the position. In between his junior and senior seasons in high school, Russell lost about 30 pounds in an effort to retain his status as a shortstop. No one doubted his bat though, and he proved why upon his introduction to pro ball, hitting his way through three different leagues before ultimately landing in full-season ball as an 18 year old. Between the three league Russell compiled a .369/.432/.594 slash line, showing power (26 XBH/217 AB), patience (9.4% BB%) and speed (16 SB/18 attempts). His strikeouts were a bit high, coming in at a rate of just under 20% across the three levels, but that's nitpicking given his age and the level of the competition. Russell is an aggressive hitter who will fall prey to soft spinning stuff away, a folly of many a young hitter and not something to worry about just yet.
While statistics in the minor leagues are almost uniformly less important than scouting reports, it is even more the case for players who have logged as few at-bats as Russell and Seager have. To that end, let's look at what got Russell selected 11th overall in the first place. We've seen the type of damage he can do at the plate, the question is how he does it and if it's likely to continue in the future. Russell uses his hands incredibly well, generating plus bat speed that allows him to lash the ball to all fields. His excellent hand/eye coordination, when combined with his quick hands give him great bat control and barrel awareness, resulting in line drive from foul pole to foul pole. While there isn't a ton of loft to his swing right now, Russell is a tinkerer in both swing mechanics and stance and he should make that adjustment as he adds strength. Aggressive at the plate, the A's will surely work with Russell on patience, though he has the bat control to maintain a high average even without growth in his plate discipline. Russell has plus speed that he puts to use in the field and on the bases with some grades as high as 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. As evidenced by his 16 thefts in 18 attempts, Russell knows his way around a stolen bag but he could still use some refinement in his technique. Russell has the aptitude to make those adjustments and the speed to steal 30 bags on a yearly basis upon reaching the majors. As a defender, Russell has worked hard to remain a shortstop, and it's done him a world of good. Some scouts still see a 3rd baseman down the line but a majority feel comfortable projecting him as a shortstop.
If he can stick at the position, Russell has All-Star potential; impacting the game with his bat, glove and legs. He should head to the A's new Lo-A affiliate in Beloit to begin 2013. Don't let a slow start fool you if it happens though - Russell is a warm weather kid, and the Midwest league is a tough circuit to hit in. Keep an eye on how he looks, not how he produces. I missed out on him in one draft already this offseason and I doubt he falls to me in another. I'll be as aggressive in pursuing him via trade as I was in our rankings discussion (I had him #5 on my personal list) for shortstop prospects. He could be a fast mover given how quickly the A's promoted him in 2012, so despite his being drafted out of high school, I wouldn't immediately peg him as a "4 years in the minors type". You've been warned - sleep on Addison Russell at your own risk.
When it comes to Logan White the man in charge of the Dodgers draft and the creator of their philosophy, we know one thing: he likes bloodlines. So it should have been a surprise to no one when the suddenly deep pocketed Dodgers selected Corey Seager, the younger brother of Seattle Mariners' third baseman Kyle Seager, with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft. The younger Seager is a bigger and stronger version of his older brother - Seager 2.0 if you will. Standing 6'3/205 lbs, Corey was a high school shortstop who was widely expected to move to third base down the line. However, the Dodgers continued to play him at short upon turning pro and he has the defensive chops to do it. The only question is whether he will outgrow it in time.
In his first professional season, Seager did not set the league on fire a la Addison Russell, but he did record a .309/.383/.520 slash line in the Rookie level Pioneer league, a great line for an 18 year old. Seager is more power than he is speed, cracking 19 extra base hits in 175 at-bats while adding 8 stolen bases in 10 attempts. Seager impressed with his contact ability given his power profile, striking out only 16% of the time and posting an excellent 10% walk rate. As I said about Russell, stats only tell so much of the story when you're looking at this small a sample size and this young a player. The scouting report is the true reveal.
A right hander in the field (it would be weird to have a lefty SS right? I can't think of any off the top of my head), Seager hits from the left side of the plate. His swing is short but sweet, with few holes, portending the ability to hit for average, and he uses his physicality and strength to hit for power. Scouts have thrown 60s on Seager's power potential, while raving about the simplicity of his swing. I wouldn't anticipate huge power numbers immediately, but he's very projectable and should show solid, if not overwhelming pop in the lower minors. One of Seager's best qualities is his approach at the plate, which has been called "extremely advanced" and is equal to that of players several years his senior. These qualities should allow Seager to succeed in the low minors and move relatively quickly for a high school draftee - although it appears as though the Dodgers will be more deliberate with him than the A's have been with Russell. Seager boasts above-average speed and is a heady player, allowing him to be successful on 80% of his stolen base attempts. I would anticipate double digit stolen bases over the course of a full season, without many CS's due to his instincts. Fielding could be his Achilles heal however. It's not that he's a poor fielder - quite the opposite in fact. He has soft hands, a plus arm, average range and smooth actions. The fear is that he continues to fill out and will outgrow the position. As it stands he projects to be a 50 fielder at shortstop. A move to third wouldn't be a death knell to his value though, as he projects to be a stronger defender there than at short, and though the burden on his bat would increase significantly, he has more than enough there to sustain himself.
I'm not going to pretend to be able to pick between the two. I've been on both of them since before the draft, and one tore through the lower lower minors in 2012 while the other acquitted himself well and was drafted by my favorite team. One is more of a lock to stay at the position and contribute solidly all around while the other has a shot to stick and is more of a power presence while dabbling in other categories. It's a pick your poison situation and I've always been partial hemlyanide and creating portmanteaus for no reason. Seriously though, if I have to recommend one over the other, my love of Russell wins out but I don't think you go wrong in either case. These are two future stars who have five tool and category ability. They're obviously a long ways off even in the most optimistic of circumstances, but they're names to keep in mind for a couple years down the line.
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