Everyone loves a nice feel good story. But as much as we like baseball movies, most players facing long odds cannot overcome them and most sons trying to escape their well-known fathers’ shadows fail to do so. With that in mind, we have to take advantage of every opportunity we get to see one take place, never knowing when the next heartwarming moment will come around. Last Friday, fans of the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays received one such opportunity as Cameron Seitzer took the field.
Seitzer was a first baseman in minor league camp, but the Rays called him up for their trip to the Blue Jays’ spring home in Dunedin because his dad, Kevin Seitzer, was Toronto’s hitting coach. The Blue Jays, in turn, made another classy move, allowing the elder Seitzer to be first base coach while his son played first base defensively for the Rays. What made the day into something special, however, was that Seitzer slammed a two-run home run in the 9th inning off Todd Redmond. In two major spring training games, Seitzer now has two home runs, both in the 9th inning, with the first tying that game and the second coming in front of his dad. Also worth noting: Seitzer hit only 6 home runs in 579 plate appearances, helping us internalize just how special this spring training has been for him. Seitzer certainly isn’t satisfied, though, with just being a feel good story. Instead of this spring being a moment that passes and is eventually forgotten, Seitzer hopes that his two home runs are the next step in his breakout as a prospect.
After the Rays selected him in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Cameron Seitzer played well for Advanced Rookie Princeton in his pro debut and was solid for Low-A Bowling Green in his second season. Those two seasons were Seitzer playing as expected as a college player going up against less mature competition. His third season, though, was another story. An organizational vacancy made the Rays decide to skip Seitzer past High-A to Double-A Montgomery, and suddenly he was young for the league he was in and had a chance to establish himself as a prospect. Did anyone think he really could do so? Seitzer is a big guy at 6’5″, 220, but he is defensively limited to first base and has not shown much power in his career. But Seitzer performed well enough to put his name on the map in spite of that. In 579 plate appearances for the Biscuits, Seitzer hit to a .268/.380/.360 line with 25 doubles, 6 homers, and 61 RBI. Most impressively, his strikeout to walk ratio was 98-81. Seitzer had a nice season, and the question was going to be whether he could develop more power and become a possible starting first baseman in the major leagues. This spring training, Seitzer has shown signs of doing just that.
Something that is both good news and bad news for Cameron Seitzer is that James Loney is signed for the next three years. The Rays have no need to rush Seitzer–but he also may not have a spot when he is ready. However, the task ahead for Seitzer is exactly what he has been doing for years now: continuing to prove himself everywhere he goes. Seitzer is in the organization that values first baseman without topflight power more than anyone else, and they are also a team that is unafraid to trade an established player to make room for a prospect. Seitzer has excellent bat speed, plate discipline, and pitch recognition, and his defense continues to improve. He is even a left-handed batter with no issues against same-side pitching. The question is whether Seitzer can develop at least the 10-15 homer power he needs for the Rays to consider him as an option. Seitzer has time to make that happen, and after the promise he showed this spring training, he will enter the season with momentum. Let’s see what he can do.