Career Profile: Kevin Seitzer
I'm not trying to go all Royals on you, but I try to be responsive to reader requests, and Kevin Seitzer was a recent request. He was an interesting player with a highly unusual minor league profile, making him a good topic for a Career Profile as we await Opening Day.
Kevin Seitzer was a college star at Division II Eastern Illinois University. He wasn't particularly big at 5-11, 180 pounds, but was a decent athlete and had thrived against smaller-school competition. The Royals picked him in the 11th round of the 1983 draft, then sent him to Butte in the Pioneer League, where he hit .345/.453/.437, with 46 walks against just 36 strikeouts in 238 at-bats. A player with this profile now (Division II star with great plate discipline, decent athleticism, an 11th-round draft slot, tearing up the Pioneer League) would get a Grade C+ from me, possibly with a sleeper notation but needing to see what he would do at higher levels.
Promoted to Charleston in the South Atlantic League in 1984, Seitzer hit .297/.432/.419 with 118 walks and 70 strikeouts in 489 at-bats, also stealing 23 bases in 28 attempts. He didn't show a ton of isolated power, but the plate discipline was amazingly good. A big problem, however, was defense: he made 50 errors in 127 games, resulting in an .878 fielding percentage at third base. A player with that profile now would probably get a Grade B- or a strong Grade C+ from me, with a very intriguing bat but serious positional doubts and possibly some concerns about power against better pitching.
Seitzer began 1985 with Fort Myers in the High-A Florida State League, hitting .314/.466/.414 with 85 walks and a mere 30 strikeouts in 290 at-bats, stealing 28 bases in 35 attempts. Promoted to Double-A, he then hit .348/.438/.417 with a 25/21 BB/K in 187 at-bats. The fact that his strike zone judgment remained so sharp after his promotion was a good sign, but he hit just five homers and 16 doubles on the season, and spent much of the year playing first base. He would still be on the C+/B- cusp but leaning more towards C+.
Sent to Triple-A Omaha for 1986, Seitzer hit .319/.438/.507 with 89 walks and 57 strikeouts in 432 at-bats. He suddenly spiked power, with 20 doubles, 11 triples, and 13 homers. He stole 20 bases, although he was also caught 13 times. A 28-game trial with the Royals in September resulted in a .323/.440/.448 mark with a 19/14 K/BB in 96 at-bats, exactly in line with what he was doing in the minors. He played first base and outfield for Omaha and again for the Royals in September, although there was talk he would succeed George Brett in 1987 at third base. The power surge, strong major league debut, and continued outstanding strike zone judgment would have garnered him a Grade B at a minimum and possibly a Grade B+.
Seitzer did exactly that in 1987, hitting .323/.399/.470 with 33 doubles, 15 homers, 80 walks, 85 strikeouts and 12 steals in 641 at-bats for the Royals. His defense at third wasn't terrific but it wasn't terrible, certainly better than he showed in the low minors, and the bat was excellent, with a 141 OPS+, giving him a 5.3 WAR his rookie year.
He never had another season as good as his rookie campaign, but, aside from a rough patch in 1991 and 1992, he was a solid player for the next ten seasons, finishing with a career line of .295/.375/.404, OPS+111, WAR 30.4. His peak seasons were his rookie year, 1988 (OPS+122, WAR 4.8), 1996 (OPS+114, 4.2 WAR), and 1990 (OPS+103, WAR 3.1).
Most Similar Players: Buddy Lewis, Jo-Jo Moore, Gregg Jefferies (there's a good topic for a profile), Tommy Holmes, Tony Gonzalez, Jerry Mumphrey, Dom DiMaggio, Mickey Rivers, Terry Moore, and Pete Fox. The Sim Scores after Moore are all less than 920, which means Seitzer was a fairly unique player.
Kevin Seitzer demonstrated amazingly good strike zone judgment during his minor league career, with a strong high walk/low strikeout profile. He didn't show power at first, but was eventually able to add some pop.