(Photo Credit: Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports)
If you’re a Dodgers fan of a certain age, you well remember the string of Rookie of the Year Awards that the Dodgers had won, starting in 1979 with Rick Sutcliffe and ending in 1982 with Steve Sax. The end of this string was the beginning of the Dodgers being on my radar, and Steve Sax was my first love (I was 6 years old). Later, LA had another string of Rookies of the Year starting in 1992 with Eric Karros and ending with Todd Hollandsworth in 1996. In fact, the Dodgers now have 17 ROYs, more than double of any other club.
Could the Dodgers be starting another string of Rookies of the Year? Well, probably not, as there’s no one (yet) this coming year that is the next phenom in the making. Julio Urias is already past his eligibility, and who knows if Jose De Leon will still be on the team come spring training. A long shot, however, could be Andrew Toles. Man, what a story that would make.
In the end, though, awards don’t mean much if you can’t continue what you’ve started by earning them. Only 15 of the 140 Rookie of the Year Award winners (as of 2016) are in the Hall of Fame. Of course those still playing are to be determined. Something tells me Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and maybe Bryce Harper might all have a pretty good chance at making it to Cooperstown, eventually.
So how about our boy Corey Seager, who last year was the unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year in the National League. Can he continue on the pace that he’s set for himself in his first full year? In 2016, Corey batted had a slash line of .308/.365/.512/.877. He had 26 home runs and 45 extra base hits. He handled the pressures of a huge market, huge expectations, and being on a team with huge payroll with aplomb.
Now that he’s set the bar so high, can he maintain that level? Seager is not the prototypical shortstop, being 6’4″ tall. The only other shortstops that tall that come to mind are Cal Ripken Jr and Alex Rodriguez. And both of those men seem to have done okay during their baseball careers. Now, of course, the fact that Corey is tall and Ripken Jr and Rodriguez were both tall doesn’t mean that Corey will automatically have the Hall of Fame careers they did. But if you’re going to compare Seager to other players, you couldn’t do much better (aside from the whole steroid thing with ARod, that is).
FanGraphs has projected Seager to have a slash line of .285/.342/.475/ next season. I feel this is slightly low, as I would put him closer to .295. But I am an optimist, and not a runner of numbers. (Coincidentally they have the Dodgers running away with the NL West, so who am I to question what they say?) Sure, a sophomore slump is always a distinct possibility. I do not feel that a player of Seager’s caliber will regress that much. If he’s handled the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby, the pressures of a crazy divisional race, and getting within two games of the World Series without a misstep, he can handle the adjustments needed to continue being the All-Star player that he is.
Besides, rookies don’t have to regress. All one has to do is look at 2015’s NL ROY in Kris Bryant. All he did was win MVP in his second year, and help take his team to the World Series. As Seager was already a finalist for MVP in his rookie season, there will be one or two of those in his future, too. I’m quite excited to watch Seager’s career unfold before our eyes, and continue on in the tradition of home grown talent. Following in Bryant’s footsteps and helping to lead the Dodgers to the World Series in his second year would be the icing on the cake. And maybe with a little luck, he’ll be the first in another grouping of Rookies of the Year. The former seems more probable, and I’m sure we would all be more than happy with that outcome.