While it came as a big surprise to many fans that Dave Roberts and the Dodgers‘ management crew decided to reveal the club’s 25-man 2016 NLDS roster three days ahead of schedule, perhaps the most unexpected news was the fact that the squad included a total of seven rookies.
Corey Seager, Andrew Toles, Austin Barnes, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Ross Stripling and Grant Dayton all earned spots on the playoff roster outright. Two additional rookie players — Rob Segedin and Brock Stewart — will make up part of the Dodgers’ “taxi” squad in the nation’s capital. And while we’re talking about rookies, let’s not overlook what Roberts has done in his inaugural season as an MLB manager. Along with George Lombard. And Josh Bard. The list goes on…
Over the course of the regular season, we mentioned the rookie pitchers quite often, especially in the second half of the year:
“In the present moment, it’s very difficult for a fan of the Dodgers to realize just how incredible of a season 2016 has become. For a group that was widely considered underachievers for most of the first half, much praise from the pundits has arrived in the second half of the season, as the team presently has quite often been referred to as overachievers. The number of injuries alone may stand in the record books for many years to come. Removed from the rotation picture are a group of veteran pitchers who were believed to have the tools to lead the club to a fourth straight divisional title, only to open the door for a handful of rookies just getting their feet wet at the big league ranks.”
Maeda, who could be deemed the hero of the entire pitching staff, isn’t thought of as a newcomer to the professional level by any means, yet is still considered a rookie by MLB standards. Fresh off 16 regular season wins, Maeda would probably be viewed as the front-runner for National League Rookie of the Year if it wasn’t for some kid called Seager wowing the whole baseball world.
On top of that, the 20-year-old Urias and Stripling are fourth and fifth on the club in starts on the bump, having logged 15 and 14, respectively. And the scouting directors trusted the stuff of Stewart and Jose De Leon enough to afford both rookie righties opportunities to make valuable contributions down the stretch, giving both much needed experience in what’s shaping up to be an exciting 2017 starting rotation.
It truly is a storybook tale. In addition to walking away with the ROY honors, Seager will certainly make a bit of noise in a campaign for National League MVP. The maturity of Urías over the past five months has been monumental. Dayton and Segedin’s sagas of perseverance through many years of minor league ball are incredible. Both Toles and Stewart have climbed almost the entire length of the organizational ladder — beginning the season in High-A Rancho Cucamonga and ending the year as key contributors on the Dodgers’ big league squad.
It goes without saying that the fans’ expectations for the Boys in Blue are tremendously high heading into the playoffs, seemingly growing to a higher level in each of the past four division-winning seasons. Much to the chagrin of those same fans, however, if 2016 doesn’t turn out to be that magical year, there is the luxury of knowing that most, if not all, of the aforementioned players and coaches will be back for the ride again next season.
And probably many years after that.