Our third base solution might come from within our ranks. We have a solid player in Corey Seager and perhaps Corey will make a better third baseman for the Dodgers than he makes as a shortstop. I know how upset this might sound for Corey Seager fans but I will argue that he might be our solution to staying at third base for the long term as opposed to being our answer at shortstop for the next 5-8 years. I will take a look at the analytics that exists in regards to how position movements work in baseball according to a baseball expert. I will also explore some names you might be familiar with that have made the move to third base which is where I see Corey playing in the near future.
Many players have made the move from one position to another. Many well known players have gone from a more difficult position to a less demanding position. In the book titled, “The Defensive Spectrum” Bill James highlighted the order of difficulty for all positions. The order went like this from most difficult to least difficult: Most difficult position was Pitching, followed by Catching, Shortstop, Second Base, Center Field, Third Base, Right Field, Left Field and First Base. The idea would go that the further right you go the less demanding that position is to play. Therefore, in theory, it is easier for a player to move to the right side of the order than for a player on the right to move to the left. It makes sense too. Think about it. Not considering the pitcher, It is not that difficult to see how a catcher can play 1st base, or even third base but a first baseman cannot play catcher. It is typically well known that a shortstop position and a second base position are interchangeable. When schools are recruiting, they look for middle infielders, assuming that if they could play shortstop, they can also play second and vice versa. Okay, so to understand the logic behind this article you must always keep in mind the following formula: P-C-SS-2B-CF-3B-RF-LF-1B.
I will argue that a pitcher cannot always make that transition due to body make up. For example, a pitcher is not always the fastest, nor the most athletic guy on the field. Likewise a pitcher can be very athletic and can make that jump to the right side of the order, but this is not always the case. Still sometimes a pitcher is the most athletic guy on the field but he is a lefty, so you would not use him as a catcher, or a shortstop. Realistically there is no rule against it, and I have seen it happen in little league, but it is uncommon at the higher levels. You could also be a pitcher that is a flame thrower but that pitcher might be a liability if placed in the outfield. One bad read on a fly ball can cost you the game. Or what about first base? First base is not just a “catch the ball and tag the base” position. You also have to know how to be a relay to home, turn a double play, hold a runner, defend a bunt, and also know how to dig it up on bad throws. So it sounds good in theory to be able to move the pitcher all across the order to the right side of the defensive order but realistically it is not that easy.
Likewise, we cannot say that a first baseman cannot play catcher because the Dodgers have a 1B player named Matt Beaty that can also catch. Can he play third base? I am sure he can also play third base but the question becomes how low of a downgrade does this become? Perhaps as an emergency situation it will be fine, but to bet the house on this being your third baseman for the whole season is another discussion the front office would need to have. So the left side of the order, to the right side of the order, in general terms, is just an average that Bill James has suggested as an overall general rule. Are there outliers? Of course, there will always be outliers who can play just about anywhere you put them but as a general rule, going left to right is always easier. We will not get into the discussion of a Pitcher moving to the right side of the order, nor we will discuss a 1B moving to the left because in this article the focus is just one particular player, Corey Seager, a shortstop, being able to handle the move to third base. According to the order provided to us by Bill James, the move from shortstop to third base makes sense. It is a move that can happen easily for a shortstop with much success.
Who is this Bill James you might ask and why does he matter? Bill James is a legendary baseball historian and statistician who was a humongous influential writer in the field of Sabermetrics. He has written over 2 dozen books on Baseball History and Statistics. He is not the ultimate law in baseball, but I believe that if Bill James has created this order, you can rest assured that he has done his research and has presented evidence in every which way possible so we will go with it. Once again, here it is: P-C-SS-2B-CF-3B-RF-LF-1B.
Let’s now explore some players who you may be familiar with that at one point or another were shortstops that made the move to third base:
- Cal Ripken started his career as a shortstop with the Orioles. From 1981 to 1995 he was the starting shortstop but began playing a little bit of third base towards the later end of his career. In fact, you may recall an All Star game where he was playing third base and a young up and coming star was a shortstop, Alex Rodriguez and Rodriguez asked Cal Ripken Jr. to switch being that this legend was about to retire. This move foreshadowed what would lead to a similar path followed by Alex Rodriguez who is my next example.
- Alex Rodriguez was one of the highest paid players in the galaxy. He was signed by the Texas Rangers as a shortstop. However, when he was traded to the Yankees there was another legendary shortstop in his way that forced him to move over to third base which is where he finished his career.
- Chipper Jones was another first round draft pick that got drafted as a shortstop but came up with the Braves and made the move pretty easily to third base.
- You may have heard of Jackie Robinson who also played for the Dodgers. Jackie Robinson was a starting shortstop in the Negro Leagues but when he came to the Dodgers he had Pee Wee Reese who was en route to the Hall of Fame. Jackie had to start his first year on first base, won rookie of the year, and later became the everyday second baseman. In his later years with the Dodgers, he became a third baseman as well as an outfielder.
- Manny Machado was drafted as a stud shortstop but in order to break into the big leagues he made the move to third base and has won 2 gold gloves at the position. He later became a shortstop for the Orioles and other times rotated between short and third base. Eventually he signed with the Padres, and with a bright star shining on Fernando Tatis, Machado made the move permanently to third base in a massive multi-year deal.
- Justin Turner was a second baseman coming out of college and was drafted as a middle infielder and we saw him develop into a great third baseman for the Dodgers.
- Miguel Cabrera was a shortstop in the minors and he became a third baseman for the Marlins and then switched to first base as he aged a bit and lost some of his reflexes.
- Like JT, Pete Rose started out at second base, moved to the outfield and then was moved to third base.
- Paul Molitor of the Brewers was also a second baseman who ended up playing third base.
What do all of these players have in common? They were all solid middle infielders at some point in their baseball careers who made the move to the hot corner. Many of these players mentioned are in the Hall of Fame, and some will soon be, and others should be. Hall of Famers, Jackie Robinson, Cal Ripken, Paul Molitor, and Chipper Jones are all Hall of Famers. A-Rod and Pete Rose should be Hall of Famers, and Miguel Cabrera will be a Hall Of Famer. Manny has a ways to go, but at the rate he is going he will also be a Hall of Fame candidate.
I have shown why a move from shortstop to third base makes sense. I have also shown other well known players who have made the move to third base rather easily and successfully.
I am going to narrow down the players who resemble Corey Seager the most. Corey Seager is 6’4. He is really tall. How does he compare to those on the list above? Cal Ripken, Chipper Jones, Miguel Cabrera are all 6’4. Manny Machado and Alex Rodriguez are 6’3. All of these guys are all really tall. How about weight? Cal Ripken was 210lbs, Manny Machado is 218 lbs, Chipper Jones 210lbs, Alex Rodriguez 230lbs, Miguel Cabrera is now 249lbs. Corey Seager is at 215lbs. A-Rod and Miggy are listed at the heaviest but keep in mind that they were very skinny when they first came into the league so they were actually lighter than Corey Seager at the age of 26. All of these guys ended up on third base and that is what I am arguing. Sooner or later he will wind up as our everyday third baseman if the Dodgers decide to keep him.
Corey is 26 and defensively was ranked 31st among all infielders in a stat called Outs Above Average with players who had at least 100 defensive opportunities in 2020. There were 59 infielders who had at least 100 defensive opportunities and he ranked 31st on that list. When you narrow it down to shortstops, there were 22 shortstops that had 100 tries or more and he ranked 12th on that list. Perhaps 2020 was too short of a season to make a determination, but what about the 2019 season. Let’s take a look. In 2019 this was a longer season, so players who had at least 250 defensive attempts, there were 66 major leaguers that fielded at least 250 balls and Corey was ranked 24th on that list of all infielders. Where does he rank on the shortstop list? He was ranked 11th out of 27 shortstops. 11 is not bad at all on a list of 27 shortstops, but it is not on the top. In 2019, Javy Baez of the Cubs was ranked 1st, Trevor Story was 4th, and Francisco Lindor was ranked 6th. I mention these three because these guys are free agents next year so a move to third base for Seager to make room for one of these better defenders would not be a bad plan. You would have a solid left side. Interesting stat is that in 2020 Corey Seager ranked higher defensively than Carlos Correa, and Correa did not make the minimum requirement of 250 defensive attempts, possibly due to injuries. Corey was better defensively per Statcast these 2 years so Correa, would not only be a downgrade at shortstop statistically speaking, but it would be an unpopular one with the fan base being that he was part of the cheating Astros.
If you have read this far I am glad I was able to keep engaged. I am not suggesting that the Dodgers go out and do this right away, and make this happen. I am suggesting that this is a possibility for Corey Seager’s career. Far better players than him have moved to the hot corner in their prime and did pretty good for their careers. It was not a death sentence at all. So in making this comparison to these legends of the game I would say it is a major compliment. I definitely see him as an eventual third baseman at some point in his career. I just hope it is here. Of course, if the Dodgers make a move for Nolan Arenado, this will not happen with the Dodgers. If the Nolan Arenado trade happens, I predict, Seager stays as our shortstop for another 5 or 6 years, and then when he is 31 or 32, he transitions into a third baseman once he has lost a bit of his agility. Perhaps it is with the Dodgers or perhaps it is elsewhere but I do believe that he transitions to third sooner or later.