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Chasing Todd Hollandsworth

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Todd Hollandsworth in 1996 was the fifth consecutive Dodgers player to win National League Rookie of the Year.
Todd Hollandsworth in 1996 was the fifth consecutive Dodgers player to win National League Rookie of the Year.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

PHOENIX -- There is a pretty good chance the Dodgers will add to their storied legacy of Rookie of the Year Award winners in 2016 while at the same time ending a long drought in winning the award.

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, the consensus top prospect in baseball, is the favorite to win 2016 National League Rookie of the Year, given +125 odds (meaning a $100 bet would win $125 should Seager win) by overseas oddsmaker Bookmaker.eu. New starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, a 28-year-old with eight years of professional experience in Japan, is tied for the second-best odds in the NL, with Mets pitcher Steven Matz, at +492.

The last Dodger to win the award was Todd Hollandsworth, in 1996.

Despite the nearly two decades without another winner, the Dodgers still dominate the Rookie of the Year history, which started with Jackie Robinson winning the first award in 1947. The Dodgers have 16 Rookie of the Year winners in their history, while no other major league team has more than eight.

The Dodgers set a record with four straight Rookie of the Year winners from 1979-1982 when Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Sax captured the honors. They matched that record from 1992-1995, then along came Hollandsworth.

"I was the fifth of our group. I couldn't not understand what was going on in front of me. Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo. I mean, we were talented and we were young," Hollandsworth recalled. "Thankfully I had a bit of an opportunity the prior season, getting an idea of what the big leagues were all about, getting my feet wet.

"First impressions were out of the way, and that was important."

Like Seager, Hollandsworth got his feet wet with some major league time before his rookie season, playing in 41 games with 115 plate appearances in 1995, though it was mixed throughout the season.

23 -Number of different teams to win Rookie of the Year since Hollandsworth won it for the Dodgers in 1996.

"I was well aware of the expectations, but my obsession and thoughts were more about keeping myself in the big leagues and being successful every day," Hollandsworth said. "My goal was to be good, for my teammates and for winning, not as much for winning an award."

If things had gone to plan, Hollandsworth would have been with the Dodgers all year long in 1995, but an injured thumb and hand surgery limited his time. He ended up 27 at-bats shy of exhausting his rookie eligibility.

"Statistically speaking, I would never have competed with Chipper Jones and Hideo Nomo that year. They were going to win the award hands down," he said. "The fact that I went into 1996 with my rookie status intact was amazing."

Hollandsworth was the opening day left fielder for the 1996 Dodgers, a good team stocked with the aforementioned Rookies of the Year, plus Ramon Martinez, Ismael Valdes and Pedro Astacio anchoring a young, talented pitching staff.

But the year began with a bit of a slump in the power department for Hollandsworth, who entering May 11 in St. Louis was hitting .254 with just a .317 slugging percentage, thanks to four doubles and zero home runs. He had 14 walks and a .390 on-base percentage, but the lack of pop drew manager Tommy Lasorda's ire during batting practice on that Saturday game in St. Louis.

"Before the game, Tommy decides to give me the business in front of my teammates around the batting cage. I was a little ticked off to say the least," Hollandsworth remembered. "'Hey Holly, we love you, but we're not seeing enough power from you. I didn't bring you up to give me those soft humpback liners to left.' He was giving me the business, and it served a purpose.

"I remember coming in the clubhouse after batting practice, I was so furious. I love the old man, but I wanted to take him out. He did this in front of my teammates, and in front of the St. Louis Cardinals by the way, who were coming out to stretch. I was embarrassed, I was a little ticked off, and definitely a little bit angry. ... I had never seen motivation that way, and it worked."

Hollandsworth went 3-for-4 in the game, with two home runs against Alan Benes. The Dodgers won 4-2.

"From that moment forward, I loved [Lasorda] like a father, and it set the tone for the rest of the season," Hollandsworth noted.

The 23-year-old outfielder would end up hitting .291/.348/.437 with 26 doubles, 12 home runs and 21 steals in 149 games for the Dodgers. He garnered 15 of 28 fist-place votes to beat out Marlins shortstop Edgar Renteria, who received 10 first-place votes.

The wild-card-winning Dodgers were swept by the Braves in the playoffs in 1996, though Hollandsworth was 4-for-12 with three doubles in the NLDS.

He remained with the Dodgers until 2000, and played 12 years in the big leagues with eight different teams, hitting .273/.328/.439 with 192 doubles and 98 home runs in 1,118 career games. He won a World Series in 2003 with Florida.

Hollandsworth sees big things for Seager, especially in the right environment, without too much pressure.

"Let him become what he is supposed to be," Hollandworth said. "I always thought that young players need consistency and need to know exactly what's being asked of them.

Since Hollandsworth, the best Dodgers ROY finish was by Yasiel Puig, who finished second in 2013, with four first-place votes. The only other Dodger since Hollandsworth to receive a first-place vote was Kazuhisa Ishii, who got one and finished fourth in 2002.

Seager, who turns 22 in April, was all of two years old when Hollandsworth won Rookie of the Year, so understandably didn't know much about him. To his credit, Seager said he's not thinking too much about the Rookie of the Year award.

"I kind of stay away from it as much as possible," Seager said. "Those are after thoughts, not during [the season]."