Player Comparison: Corey Seager and Derek Jeter

Photo Credit: Corey Seager photo via Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images, Derek Jeter photo via Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This past winter, Derek Jeter, known by his fans as The Captain, was voted nearly unanimous into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of the 2020 class, accompanied into the Hall of Fame by Larry Walker, who was in his final year on the traditional Baseball Writer’s Association of America ballot. Jeter received 99.7% of the votes, omitted by just one of the three hundred ninety-seven writers who submitted ballots.

Derek Jeter is considered by a number of fans and analysts to be the greatest shortstop in MLB history. With that in mind, comparing Corey Seager to Jeter seems like somewhat of a reach at face value. However, Seager has completed just a fourth of the number of seasons Jeter did in his legendary twenty-year career. Both players debuted in the Major Leagues at twenty-one years old, so the playing time of Seager and Jeter can be evened up fairly easily.

The Bats

In the batter’s box and in their shared shortstop position, Corey Seager and Derek Jeter posted very similar numbers over their first five seasons in Major League Baseball. Here’s a look at their career batting lines through their respective first five seasons:

Derek Jeter (1995-1999)

2886 PA, .318/.389/.465 (.855 OPS), 807 H, 63 HR, 486 R, 341 RBI, 273 BB, 473 SO, 121 OPS+

Corey Seager (2015-2019)

2069 PA, .294/.362/.491 (.853 OPS), 545 H, 73 HR, 302 R, 266 RBI, 190 BB, 398 SO, 126 OPS+

Although the number of seasons is equal, Derek Jeter has almost a season and a half worth of plate appearances more than Corey Seager. Seager has dealt with a number of injuries throughout his career, undergoing multiple corrective surgeries. Because of this discrepancy in plate appearances, the counting stats such as hit totals, runs batted in, and runs score are very lopsided. In order to get a better idea of how these two would level out if Seager had recorded the same 2,886 plate appearances Jeter had through his first five seasons, I took the rates at which Seager accumulated hits, walks, strikeouts, and home runs in his career and added them to his real-life career totals. This is how Seager’s batting line would look with Jeter’s playing time:

Corey Seager (2015-2019 with Jeter-adjusted PA total)

2886 PA, 760 H, 102 HR, 265 BB, 555 SO

Although comparing Seager to Jeter using this line of evidence requires a bit of leeway and a good imagination, the simulated statistics are based upon real rates Seager has held throughout his actual career. These numbers show just how close Seager and Jeter would be if Seager had accumulated as many plate appearances through his first five seasons. There’s almost no disparity in these two player’s numbers when leveled evenly.

The Gloves

Shortstop is known in most circles as the position in baseball most notable for its importance for defensive proficiency. But, what is interesting about Derek Jeter, and the near certainty that he has gone down in the record books as one of the best that will ever play the shortstop position is the fact that Jeter was never a very good fielder. Jeter, frankly, was a liability on defense. According to FanGraphs, Jeter has the very worst Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) figure of any player at any position in the history of baseball.

However, this lack of elite ability is exactly what ties Corey Seager so closely to Derek Jeter. Seager was seen by some scouts as a player unfit to play shortstop and someone who would fill-in better as a third baseman when his playstyle was being studied prior to the 2012 MLB Draft. Here’s a look at Jeter’s fielding statistics through his first five seasons, side-by-side with Seager’s career fielding statistics:

Derek Jeter (1995-1999):

5608.0 INN, 958 PO, 1719 A, 65 E, .976 FLD%, 4.30 RF/9, 1.4 dWAR

Corey Seager (2015-2019):

4003.0 INN, 567 PO, 1118 A, 52 E, .970 FLD%, 3.79 RF/9, 2.0 dWAR

Because of the era Jeter played in, most advanced fielding statistics are unavailable for his first five seasons. However, this list of standard fielding statistics shows how similar these two shortstops were when playing on the defensive end.

Down the Road

Corey Seager has always been around baseball, being the youngest of three brothers who each were drafted in the MLB Draft. Seager grew up a Yankees fan, idolizing Derek Jeter. After studying and comparing the numbers recorded by these two players, it’s telling just how much Seager modeled his game after that of Jeter.

It’s impossible to say whether or not Seager will stick around and play as well as Jeter for as long as Jeter did. But, it’s been shown that if Seager can continue to prolong his career towards the twenty that Jeter touched in terms of seasons played, baseball may have a ghost-chaser on the hunt, looking to capture the magic of the great Mr. November.

Arrick Joel has covered the Dodgers since 2017. Follow him on Twitter at @ArrickJoel and follow @DodgersLowDown for more.