MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Seager more than living up to hype

Dodgers shortstop not just atop rookie class, but also an NL MVP Award candidate

Seager more than living up to hype

DENVER -- You have to watch Corey Seager to appreciate him, and not just when he is at bat or playing shortstop for the Dodgers. You have to watch him in the dugout. You have to watch Seager during batting practice. You have to watch him in the clubhouse, constantly viewing video, seeking input from his teammates.

And then, once you have gotten more than an eyeful, you can understand that all that offseason hype about Seager being an impact player as a rookie was, if anything, an understatement.

Ranked the best prospect in baseball when the season started, the 22-year-old Seager has spent only six months in the big leagues, including a September callup a year ago, and he has already earned the respect of his peers.

"Sometimes the hype is overhype," said veteran pitcher Joe Blanton. "Not with him. If anything, it's underhype. He did not let it get to his head, and the way he plays, he's fantastic, cool to watch."

As Dodgers manager Dave Roberts put it, "It is hard, as a young player, to know you are the best player on the field, and to be around players that are older and more experienced."

Seager, however, blends right in.

"He doesn't buy into or read that stuff," said third baseman Justin Turner. "It's not about people talking about him. It's about him coming to the park and getting ready every day. He doesn't want to talk about himself. He just wants to play the game."

Seager plays the game well, which is why the Dodgers had a hold-your-breath moment when he took a pitch from the Rockies' Chris Rusin off the back of his left wrist. X-rays were negative, but Seager will be out of the lineup on Tuesday, a move Roberts said had been planned.

The rookie won't be out of the lineup much down the stretch. Seager is putting together a season that not only has him likely to become the fourth shortstop to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award since the Baseball Writers' Association of America took over the honor in 1947, but he's also a prime candidate to become the third player in Major League history to earn the Rookie of the Year Award and the Most Valuable Player Award in the same season. The previous two were both in the American League -- outfielder Fred Lynn with the Red Sox in 1975 and Ichiro Suzuki with the Mariners in 2001.

"He doesn't play like he is 21," said Blanton. "He is way beyond his years. He is a huge reason we are in the situation we are in."

That situation? First place in the NL West with a 1 1/2-game lead on the Giants despite an 8-1 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field on Monday night. The Dodgers have rebounded from an eight-game deficit on June 26.

Seager, meanwhile, is hitting .320 with 23 home runs and 62 RBIs this season. Since June 27, he leads the Dodgers with a .351 average and 37 runs scored while hitting seven home runs and driving in 24.

"He is playing shortstop for the Dodgers, hitting at the top of the lineup, and his brother is a good player [with the Mariners]," said Blanton. "That's a lot to live up to. Everybody's eyes are on him. To not blink an eye and play the way he has played is testament to the individual he is."

Seager can appreciate what is happening this season, but it's not an obsession.

"I am grateful for a good year, but on a personal note, I don't have goals," he said. "For the team, you want to win a championship."

A World Series championship.

The Dodgers have won championships, advancing to the postseason 29 times since 1900 and winning 22 NL pennants and six World Series. But they have come up short in their past nine postseason trips, including each of the past three seasons. They haven't won a World Series since 1988, the longest drought since they moved to the West Coast in '58.

This year, they are hoping that drought will end, and Seager is a big part of why,

"I could speak to his makeup even moreso than his skill set," said Roberts. "If you put that in context, that says a lot. His ability to relate to teammates, to play every pitch. I am running him out there quite a bit, but he wants to play. He knows it gives us the best chance to win. He's a very unselfish player. To watch him grow on a daily basis and be part of it is one of the things I'm more proud of."

Seager does have his moments.

"One time he missed a sign or whatever it might have been, and he told me it's OK if I yell at him," said Roberts. "That he can take it. It made me laugh. I have a certain way of talking to players and getting the most out of him, but for him to say, 'Dave, it's OK if you yell at me sometimes, too.'"

And then there was an Aug. 8 game against the Phillies.

"We were talking about Chase [Utley] playing his old team and how he was so much younger without gray hair," Roberts said, referring to a picture of a young Utley in a Phillies uniform. "Corey and Chase had a bet if Corey hit two homers that night, Chase would go back to Philly with dyed brown hair.

"Corey hits the first home run, and Chase is shaking his head. Later that game, he hits another home run. The dugout is going crazy. Unbeknownst to us, Chase, after the first homer, said if he [Utley] hit a home run this game, it cancels [the first home run] out and Corey had to hit two. So Chase follows with a home run but still went on to dye his hair. They have such a good big brother/younger brother dynamic, it's pretty cool."

It has been a hit with the Dodgers.

Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.