Throughout his career Corey Hart has often been undervalued. In his new contract with Seattle, the 31 year old Hart enters another situation where he will need to again prove his worth.
The Milwaukee Brewers originally drafted Hart in the 11th round of the 2000 draft out of high school as a first baseman. In his first three years, the young prospect showed off his strong bat by slugging a combined 37 homeruns, and he even batted .340 as a 19 year old in 2002. His bat looked like it was going to be strong enough to carry him to the big leagues. In 2002 however, the Brewers drafted super-star slugger Prince Fielder with the seventh pick of the draft. With Fielder unable to change positions, Hart was forced to try new roles.
First the club tried to move Hart to third, but his 6’6″ frame made the position very difficult. During his 187 minor league games where he played third, Hart racked up 61 errors and complied an .882 fielding percentage. By 2004, he was permanently moved to the outfield where he found success.
Playing in the shadow of others
Although he put up huge minor league numbers and had a decent first season with the Brewers, Hart was constantly overlooked when compared to other Brewer prospects while all the attention was on other prospects like J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, and even later Ryan Braun. Hart quietly put up stellar numbers and even appeared in his first all-star game in 2008. He showed he was just as valuable as the other Brewer prospects.
Proving his worth
After a difficult 2009 season in which Hart hit just .260 with only 12 homeruns, the Brewers brought in veteran free agent, Jim Edmonds to compete for the starting right field job. Edmonds seemed to earn the job out of spring training and was even able to start on opening day. Hart would not give up his job easily, but instead succeeded when given opportunities. He eventually won back his starting job and had the best season of his career. He drove in 102 runs and 31 homeruns, both career highs, which led to his second all-star game. He again showed his significance in the “Hart” of the Brewers lineup.
Chance at first
With the departure of Prince Fielder following the 2011 season, Hart finally got his chance again at first base. While playing first, Hart excelled and provided solid defense that the team had lacked for years. Hart finished the year with just four errors and a .995 fielding percentage. His tall frame and steady glove saved countless errors from the Brewers infielders.
Proving himself again
Following the 2012 season, Hart had an offseason knee surgery. He was expected to miss the first month of the season, but instead missed the whole year after needing surgery on the other knee. The Brewers suffered greatly at first without his big bat in the lineup.
Entering free agency Hart saw few offers. It looked like he was going to be re-signed by Milwaukee, but instead he signed a one year deal with Seattle. The signing upgrades Seattle’s lineup by giving the team a legitimate power bat at first. But again overshadowed, this time by the mega signing of Robinson Cano. This season, Hart will look to do what he has done his whole career: prove his worth.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference