Though anything can happen in October, it’s obvious at the outset that the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ hopes of winning a World Series title hinge on two fellas whose names rhyme with Gershaw and Kreinke.

After the two of them, however, there’s a guy who’s now a whole lot more important than he was when he first appeared in the majors a couple of weeks ago. His name is Corey Seager, and he is to the Dodgers lineup what Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are to the Dodgers pitching staff.

The Dodgers are barely a month removed from Seager‘s promotion to the majors back on September 3, which was a move made more out of necessity than anything else. The Dodgers called on their top shortstop prospect not so much because they wanted to see what he could do, but because they needed some depth behind shortstop Jimmy Rollins and third baseman Justin Turner.

“It got to the point where we kind of needed him here,” Dodgers vice president for baseball operations Josh Byrnes said at the time, per Mark Saxon of

The notion that Seager was only there to boost the Dodgers’ depth, however, perished in quick and glorious fashion.

In 27 games, all Seager did was hit .337 with a .986 OPS and four home runs. It was a performance that blew away even his career .307 average and .891 OPS in the minors, and it made those who espoused the notion that Seager had become the top prospect in all of baseball—looking at you, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus—look like the smartest guys in the room.

Elsewhere, Seager‘s performance also forced the Dodgers’ hand with what to do about their starting shortstop gig in the postseason.

For a time it looked like this wasn’t going to be the case. In late September, Rollins told Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times he would “probably be out there” as long as a troublesome finger injury allowed him to play.

But by early October, Rollins’ tune had changed.

“They’re going to play him,” Rollins told the LA Times’ Steve Dilbeck, referring to a talk he had with the Dodgers brass. “We had a conversation and that’s the way it was said: ‘We’re going to go with the kid. That’s the lineup we feel is best.'”

For what it’s worth, Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times reported as recently as Tuesday that the Dodgers hadn’t yet confirmed that Seager would indeed carry on as their starting shortstop into the postseason.

But sure enough, every indication is going to be out there when the Dodgers open up against the New York Mets in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on Friday night. And when it happens, there will be no question the Dodgers made the right call.

If there’s one thing Rollins has that Seager definitely doesn’t, it’s experience. One of them is a 36-year-old veteran who’s won an MVP and played in two World Series. The other is a 21-year-old who’s played in 27 major league games. I believe the phrase is “One of these things is not like the other.”

But while experience is a good thing to have in October, there are some things it can’t overrule. In this case, that would be a pretty extreme talent gap.

While Seager OPS’d .986 in 27 games, Rollins very much looked his age in OPS’ing .643 in 144 games. According to FanGraphs, Rollins also posted a 0.2 WAR to Seager‘s 1.5 WAR. That points to how, contrary to what one’s assumption would be, Rollins’ defense at short really didn’t trump Seager‘s defense at short.

Of course, the small-sample-size caveat does apply to Seager‘s performance, especially at the plate. He only logged 113 plate appearances, which is too small a look for the Dodgers to learn everything about their young stud shortstop.

But as far as they must be concerned, Seager at least showed them enough in these 113 plate appearances. For while producing like an elite hitter is one thing, looking like an elite hitter is just as important.

To this end, an elite hitter is what Seager was indeed supposed to become upon his arrival in the majors. In the eyes of Baseball America, here’s why:

Seager is one of the most dominant offensive forces in the minors. He’s an aggressive lefthanded hitter with an advanced hitting approach well beyond his years. He has a loose, easy swing with good balance that unleashes terrific bat speed with a compact path that helps him stay inside the ball. He hits the ball with high exit speed to all fields, controlling the barrel through the hitting zone and rarely mis-hitting a ball. 

In a nutshell: Seager would find success in the majors because he has an outstanding feel for hitting and a bat that packs a real wallop.

Seager had little trouble living up to the first part. According to FanGraphs, he was indeed aggressive in swinging at over 50 percent of the pitches he saw. But he was also disciplined, chasing only 30 percent of the pitches he saw outside the strike zone. That’s an approach reminiscent of Brandon Belt, Kris Bryant and few others.

As for Seager‘s ability to barrel the ball, FanGraphs put his soft-hit rate at just 13.9 percent and his hard-hit rate at a whopping 45.6 percent. For perspective on how good that is, here’s a totally unfair, yet totally eye-opening juxtaposition:

  • Corey Seager: 13.9 Soft%, 45.6 Hard%
  • Bryce Harper: 11.9 Soft%, 40.9 Hard%

So, that’s pretty good company. And though this comparison likely won’t hold up in the long run, it gets the point across: Yeah, Seager can hit the ball.

There’s another thing that Seager has shown he can do, and that’s hit same-side pitching. He teased it wouldn’t be a problem in OPS’ing .908 against lefties in the minors in 2015, per, and he just kept going in OPS’ing .926 against lefties in 46 plate appearances in the majors.

Add it all up, and Seager more than earned the kinda-sorta-gushing scouting report he got from manager Don Mattingly in mid-September.

“He’s been pretty good,” the Dodgers skipper told Hernandez. “Kind of what we expected. He’s pretty mature, doesn’t get too excited. He’s got a good eye. He can hit both sides.”

Certainly, what Mattingly would prefer is that his shiny new toy at shortstop was just another cog in a dominant lineup. But instead, another thing that makes Seager such an obvious choice for the club’s shortstop gig is how the Dodgers lineup truly needs his bat.

There was a point in 2015 when the Dodgers appeared to not only have the best offense in the league, but one of the best offenses in MLB history. But that was a while ago. In the final three months of 2015, the Dodgers offense was decidedly mediocre in OPS’ing just .713, .714 and .714 again.

And indeed, things would have been even worse in the season’s final month had Seager not been there.

In September and October, only platoon outfielder Justin Ruggiano was even remotely close to being as hot as Seager. Meanwhile, key lineup mainstays like Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal were all slumping, while lightning-rod right fielder Yasiel Puig was out with a hamstring injury.

So it goes. What happened in September and October was a mere microcosm of the Dodgers offense in the entire second half of the season.

Their hot hitters have been guys like Seager, Enrique Hernandez and A.J. Ellis, and not guys like Gonzalez, Pederson, Grandal, Rollins and Howie Kendrick. The big guns in their lineup have been rendered small, leading Robert Pace of Fox Sports to rightfully conclude that the current state of the Dodgers offense is one of the reasons they’ll be hard-pressed to win the World Series.

But if Seager keeps hitting like he’s been hitting, the Dodgers definitely have a chance. He alone can’t make the Dodgers lineup dangerous again, but we just saw him at least bar the Dodgers offense from descending into helplessness in September and October. With Kershaw and Greinke at the top of their game in the meantime, the payoff was a 19-13 finish that secured the NL West.

If the same Seager-Kershaw-Greinke-led dynamic continues to work wonders in the postseason, the Dodgers may end up with their elusive championship. If they aren’t already, that’s when they’ll be very glad they found themselves merely in need of some depth in early September.


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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