When the Los Angeles Dodgers used their fourth-round pick of the 2013 Draft on Cody Bellinger, it left many scratching their head. Bellinger was a light-hitting first baseman in high school, and didn’t profile to develop much power.
That held true when Bellinger debuted with the Arizona League Dodgers and into 2014 during time spent with Rookie-level Ogden. But he turned the corner in 2015, slugging 30 home runs over 128 games with High-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Bellinger attributed the surge in power to a change in his approach. That carried into 2016, when he hit a combined 26 home runs with Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City, and added three more in games played in the Arizona Fall League.
Upon making his MLB debut with the Dodgers this season, Bellinger went on to hit 39 home runs in 132 games. He led the team in home runs, RBI (97) and slugging percentage (.581).
While the 23-year-old put forth an impressive display of power, Bellinger said he’s hopeful to add to his home run total in seasons ahead, via Petros and Money Show on AM 570 L.A. Sports Radio:
“I didn’t expect to hit 39 this year, I don’t think anyone did. I just tried to take advantage of my opportunities. Hopefully I’ll get a little bigger and stronger, and hit some more homers in the future.”
Bellinger’s 39 home runs broke a Dodgers rookie record that was previously held by Mike Piazza, who clubbed 35 in 1993. What’s more, he also set a new National League record for most home runs by a rookie. It was previously shared by Wally Berger (1930) and Frank Robinson (1960).
The end result of a wildly successful season was Bellinger unanimously winning the Rookie of the Year Award. He became the 18th player in Dodgers franchise history to earn the honor, and with Corey Seager made for back-to-back unanimous selections.
Like Seager, Bellinger was also named NL Outstanding Rookie by his peers, and Rookie of the Year by Sporting News.