Rays First Base Prospect Cameron Seitzer Takes Jump From Low-A to Double-A in Stride

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When the Rays selected him in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Cameron Seitzer didn’t stand out at all. He was the third first baseman that the Rays had selected in that draft and was coming off a poor junior season at the University of Oklahoma, hitting .358 but slamming just four home runs after hitting 16 the year before. His father was Kevin Seitzer, the 1987 Rookie of the Year runner-up for the Kansas City Royals who hit .295 in his 12-year career as a big league third baseman, but Seitzer lacked his father’s athleticism and his bloodlines could only get him so far. But down in the 11th round of the draft, Seitzer had enough ability to be worth a look. And since signing, Seitzer has done nothing but impress.

Seitzer made his pro debut at Rookie-level Princeton in 2011 and his power returned as he managed a .285/.407/.498 line with 14 doubles, 11 homers, and a 46-43 strikeout to walk ratio in 64 games and 268 plate appearances. However, he was playing against younger competition and still had much to prove. But the Rays did have enough confidence in him to move him up two levels to Low-A Bowling Green the following season and he has another nice year, albeit without any power once again. He managed a .307/.386/.429 line with 36 doubles, 4 homers, 54 RBI, and an 83-55 strikeout to walk ratio in 488 plate appearances. He played well and was at the right age for his league, but we still couldn’t be sold on him because he showed just so little power for a first baseman. But then the Rays decided to do something very interesting this spring training: they skipped Seitzer over the High-A level and made him Double-A Montgomery’s starting first baseman. Why did they do that? Partially for Seitzer’s merits, but it may have been more because they had an organizational gap and needed someone to fill it. Bowling Green had two first base prospects in 2012, Seitzer and Jeff Malm, and the Rays decided to give the more highly-touted Malm more time to develop while rushing Seitzer and just hoping for the best. But whatever the motivation behind sending Seitzer up to Double-A, the move was worked out perfectly for everyone involved.

To begin 2013, all Seitzer has done is basically keep his 2012 numbers at Low-A going. He has managed a nearly-identical .304/.396/.430 line with 8 doubles, a triple, 10 RBI, and an 11-10 strikeout to walk ratio in 21 games and 91 plate appearances. And while those numbers didn’t attract much attention in the lower minors, Seitzer doing that at Double-A as a player a year younger than the league average is a reason for the Rays to begin getting excited about Seitzer. He may not be a superstar or anything along those lines, but he is a real prospect and it will be interesting to see what he can do the rest of this year.

Seitzer, 6’5″ and 220 pounds, is a lefty-hitting first baseman who stands out most for his bat speed and plate discipline. Seitzer has not flashed consistent home run power so far as pro, but he shows a quick stroke with the ability to hit the ball hard all over the field. He bat speed is complemented by excellent patience and pitch recognition as he does a great job working deep counts and finding pitches he can handle. So far in his career, Seitzer has been the rare lefty who has hit lefties better than righties in his career, managing a .331/.462/.476 line in 159 plate appearances compared to a .293/.378/.445 line in 688 PA’s against righties, but that mark against righties isn’t too shabby either. One area in which Seitzer can improve and maybe find some more power is to be a little more aggressive when he sees a pitch to hit early in the count. It’s great that he has such great patience, but he gets into trouble because he tries too hard to work deep counts, letting too many hittable pitches go by and doing a lot of his hitting when he shortens his stroke with two strikes. Seitzer has the bat speed to hit for power if he can adjust his approach at least slightly, and if Seitzer keeps hitting like this in the minors, you have to think that the Rays will work with him to try to do that. Seitzer also needs more work on his defense at first base, but he should be fine moving forward. Seitzer is far from a prototypical first base prospect given his lack of power, but he still has the all-around ability to be a big leaguer and maybe even a good one if just serviceable power comes along.

At this point, it looks like Seitzer’s upside is a James Loney-type who does a much better job hitting lefties or a first base version of his dad with a little more power. The elder Seitzer managed a .295/.375/.404 line with 32 doubles and more strikeouts than walks per full season but only 8 home runs, and his son has a chance to be that same type of player. Seitzer just keeps on hitting and the questions will be whether this can continue and whether his bat speed and outstanding approach at the plate well even translate into the 15-20 home runs he needs to be a starting big league first baseman. Cameron Seitzer’s future is still up in the air and no one is going to consider him one of the Rays’ top prospects. At the same time, though, the more Seitzer has kept this going, the more attention he has attracted, and before we know it, he could end up as the Rays’ first baseman of the present and maybe even the future.

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