MLB: Why Cory Seager is the Favorite to Win NL Rookie of the Year
Since being selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, shortstop Corey Seager quickly ascended through the minor league system that made him one of the top prospects in all of baseball over the last couple of years. The 21-year-old had his first taste of the majors last season as a September call-up, batting .337 with four home runs, 17 RBIs, and 17 runs scored in just 27 games played.
Seager’s stellar play earned him the starter role at shortstop over veteran Jimmy Rollins in the playoffs, making him the youngest position player to start a postseason game in franchise history. Although he didn’t fare particularly well at the plate in the postseason, batting just .188 with eight strikeouts in five games, he got some much-needed experience to jump start his MLB career.
What Seager displayed in his short time in the majors season was that he was ready to be a high-impact player with his bat and glove from the get-go. What was most impressive was that he never appeared to be rattled or overwhelmed. Instead, he stepped up in critical moments, hitting .294 with two outs and runners in scoring position and batting .339 when the Dodgers trailed by just one run.
Beyond the abundance of talent he possesses, Seager clearly demonstrated that he was mentally prepared to make a full-time leap to the majors. All of this thrust a high level of expectations onto his shoulders in his first full major-league season, with many picking him to be the odds-on favorite to win the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, which would make him just the first Dodger to earn that award since Todd Hollandsworth in 1996.
Seager has all the physical tools and mental makeup to be one of the best players in the league at his position in the near future. Although he has cooled off a bit since his fast start, batting just .268 with four RBIs, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to showcase his promising talent.
Throughout the season, many situations will arise where he will have the chance to knock in runs, batting in the No. 2 spot ahead of the likes of Justin Turner, five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez, and a resurgent Yasiel Puig. There will also be stretches like the one he’s currently experiencing — just one hit over the last three games — where he struggles at the plate. However, he should be able to adjust as the season wears on.
That said, he already has early competition for the award with the unexpected production from Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, who is batting .333 while leading the league with seven home runs and placing in second with 13 RBIs. Story has been the talk of the league in the two weeks of his MLB career, becoming the first rookie to hit home runs in his first four games, and the first player in major league history to hit six home runs in the first four games of any season.
Story also set the MLB record with the most home runs (seven) in a team’s first six games, which surpasses the previous mark of six home runs in six games held by Larry Walker, Mike Schmidt, and Willie Mays. His strong first week earned him the National League Player of the Week Award.
St. Louis Cardinals rookie right fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker also got off to a hot start in the first two weeks of the season, currently leading the league and batting .481 with three home runs and seven RBIs. After spending seven years in the minors, the 28-year-old has been quite a find for the Cardinals through the first couple weeks of the season.
In that same breath, San Francisco Giants rookie catcher Trevor Brown has been phenomenal in the first five games of his career, batting .385 with three home runs and seven RBIs in just 13 at-bats. This includes becoming the first Giant to record home runs in his first three hits in a season since Kevin Mitchell in 1991. All of these players have noteworthy starts but it’s just a matter of time before they all cool down as pitchers gain more familiarity with them.
Nonetheless, their respective strong starts have made them early challengers for Seager in his pursuit of the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Although he’s experiencing a minor rough patch at the plate, keep in mind that it’s just the beginning of a long season, which will present plenty of time for him to demonstrate why he’s the No. 1 prospect in the game and the favorite to win the award.