After a breakout campaign in 2017 that led to a unanimous National League Rookie of the Year Award, Cody Bellinger regressed some in a second season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bellinger was still productive by several metrics, but failed to meet the high bar he’d set.
Thus far in the 2019 season, some of his struggles — particularly laying off pitches low and away and handling inside fastballs — have not returned. Bellinger has reduced his strikeout rate by more than half, now down to 12%, and increased his walk rate to 13%.
Bellinger’s offseason work has him in the thick of the NL MVP discussion, along with Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich, who won the award last season.
“There’s a maturity, an understanding of what your body can do, what you’re trying to do at the plate. Along with his talent,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recently said of Bellinger’s growth.
“In his rookie year, there was just the naivety, the youthfulness of going out there and seeing ball, hit ball. The league sort of adjusted, so to really be aware of what they’re trying to do and how you can counter, I think this is as open as he’s been. And he’s only going to get better with that information.”
Entering Tuesday, Bellinger leads the Majors in runs scored (26), total hits (36), batting average (.424), slugging percentage (.882), on-base plus slugging (1.382), OPS+ (258) and total bases (75). His 11 home runs are second only to Yelich (13).
“He’s really matching his skill set. He’s a very dynamic player. He can impact the game in the box, on the bases, with his glove. He’s doing a lot of good things to help us win baseball games,” Roberts said.
“It’s really fun to watch. For him, the process of preparing each day the right way, taking a walk when he needs to take a walk, playing solid defense. That’s the mark of an All-Star player.”
Bellinger was named an All-Star in 2017, when he also participated in the Home Run Derby. At his current rate, he should be elected to the Midsummer Classic again this season and also receive an invitation to the Derby.