Corey Seager is not on the NLCS roster, an announcement made earlier before Game One that changes the outlook of the series. The young, generational talent played 145 games at shortstop in 2017 and produced 5.7 fWAR before a back injury sidelined him. As a consequence, the Cubs become the favorite by 0.1 percent. Hey, I’ll take it.
ZiPS projections for Cubs/Dodgers with and without Corey Seager in the lineup. SPOILER: He's good. pic.twitter.com/XQxv54jz2M
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) October 14, 2017
Losing the infielder dramatically shakes up the Dodgers lineup. No other LA player was as much of a lock at his respective position than the youthful Seager, whom FanGraphs projected would’ve played 95 percent of the time. How the Dodgers combat such an injury is unclear, but we can try to figure it out.
First, I’m assuming Chris Taylor or Kiké Hernandez takes over the shortstop role. Hernandez, who played 24 games at short this season and totaled about 150 innings, spelled Seager the most. And Taylor played about two-thirds as many innings as Hernandez (96), but has been in center throughout the latter part of the regular season and all three games in the NLDS.
Neither Taylor nor Hernandez have recorded enough innings at shortstop to form reliable opinions about their defense. In their careers, though, each has posted above-average UZR/150 and Defensive Runs Saved scores. The utility players rate as below average in the throwing department, but above average in the speed department. How that speed plays in the infield, of course, is completely different than in the outfield. Simply put, we aren’t sure how well they will perform at shortstop, and replacing Seager’s top-tier defense (UZR/150: 8.8) is next to impossible.
Second, since one of Taylor and Hernandez will have to use their infielder’s glove, the Dodgers have a possible vacancy in the outfield. Dave Roberts has employed Curtis Granderson, Taylor, and Yasiel Puig across the outfield lately. It’s possible that this remains the order if Hernandez goes to shortstop full-time. But if Roberts wants to use Joc Pederson against righties, Hernandez could be moved to the bench and Taylor to shortstop.
Whatever Roberts ends up doing to make the most of Seager’s replacement, Hernandez will undoubtedly play more overall. Compared to Seager’s 127 wRC+ and elite defense, Hernandez’s 92 wRC+ is a substantial downgrade, one that gives the Cubs a clear advantage.
Ed. note: Seager could rejoin the roster if an active player goes to the DL, so the speculation is that some poor Dodger, probably Charlie Culberson, will come up with a magic injury before long.
McCullough reported that the Dodgers medical staff has not cleared Seager to run or swing a bat, adding that Andrew Friedman, LA’s President of Baseball Operations, said that Seager will not be traveling with the team to Chicago. Culberson will start at shortstop in Game 1.