The Los Angeles Dodgers saw a bit of a changing-of-the-guard at first base this past season, which was a result of Adrian Gonzalez being placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Thus, Cody Bellinger burst onto the scene earlier than anticipated.
As Gonzalez recovered from herniated discs in his back, Bellinger made it clear he deserved to in the lineup on a daily basis. When the Dodgers faced a roster crunch as players returned from injury, Gonzalez volunteered to go on the DL a second time.
He ultimately was limited to just 71 games, and was not his usual productive self while he was on the field, batting just .242/.287/.355 with three home runs and 30 RBIs in 71 games, which were career-lows across the board.
He wound up being shut down at the end of September due to the back issues, and it caused him to miss the entire postseason.
The 35-year-old still has one year left on his contract, and despite a reported attempt to trade him this offseason in a possible deal with the Miami Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton, it looks like Gonzalez will be back with the team in 2018.
That may not be a negative thing, though, as Gonzalez has an entire offseason to get healthy and possibly return to his All-Star form. If that happens, then manager Dave Roberts envisions possibly moving Belinger to the outfield to account for both players, via the Dodgers’ Facebook page:
“The thing about Cody, which if you look at our roster, we have a lot of versatility. So Cody is right up there as far as versatility. At his age, the ability to play anywhere in the outfield. Adrian, under contract, proven performer, All-Star, we expect him to be healthy going into spring. So, yeah, if Adrian performs the way we would expect, then Cody certainly gives us that flexibility.”
All of this depends of Gonzalez’s health, of course, but in his first four full seasons with the Dodgers, Gonzalez hit at least 18 home runs and drove in at least 90 runs, which is production that Roberts would happily welcome back to the lineup.
Whether it’s in the outfield or at first base, Bellinger will be in the lineup every day in addition to providing Gold-Glove caliber defense, but where he will be playing in the field depends on Gonzalez.
Bellinger played 39 games (37 starts) in left field for the Dodgers this past season, five games (three starts) in center field, and four games (three starts) in right field. Some within the organization are said to view Bellinger as the best center fielder in the organization.