SAN DIEGO -- Rookie of the year, no doubt. MVP, not out of the question.
But is Corey Seager the Dodgers' X-Factor, the one player whose performance will be a key factor in the club's October fate?
Well, yeah. Consider that Seager, after an eye-popping September debut last year, struggled when the Dodgers started him at shortstop ahead of veteran Jimmy Rollins in four of the five games of the National League Division Series against the Mets.
Seager was handled by the Mets pitching staff. He went 3-for-16 (.188) with eight strikeouts, one walk and a .485 OPS, after compiling a .986 OPS in September.
This season, the Dodgers lost Clayton Kershaw for 2 1/2 months and somehow upped their game to finish first. But imagine what would have happened if they had lost their starting shortstop for that long.
"I don't know how we would have ended up," said manager Dave Roberts. "It would have been tough to deal with. I don't want to think like that."
Although he's technically still a rookie, Seager said the difference for him between this year's postseason and last year's is massive.
"It's one of those things where you have to go through it to understand it, and now I know what to expect," said Seager. "The veterans try to help, and looking back, their advice was good to hear at the time, but it really isn't much help.
"I mean, I was still getting used to being in the big leagues, then you're thrown in there and it's not overwhelming, but in the playoffs, you're even more uncertain what to do, what to expect. Honestly, right now I'm just more comfortable, and that will be the biggest difference.
Another difference, said Seager, is that because he was called up in September, he had never faced the Mets until the NLDS. By contrast, he's already played three games against the Nationals this year at Dodger Stadium and was 6-for-12 at the plate with a home run and two doubles. He was sick and missed the three-game series in Washington in July.
"The first time facing that team is never easy," he said. "This year having played the Nationals, you have somewhat of a gameplan. I didn't know what their team philosophy was against me last year."
That said, Seager said he appreciates the club had the confidence to play him last year, and he's eager for the second chance this fall. Although he's batting third, Seager said he doesn't think the club is asking too much of him.
"No, you want to be in there, you want to be in the big spots, in those moments," he said. "You're grateful they put you in there. You want to be the guy that helps the team win."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.