Cody Bellinger enjoyed a rookie year for the ages in 2017 and won the National League MVP Award two years later, but has since trended downward with back-to-back disappointing seasons.
Despite another struggled-filled campaign in 2021, ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked Bellinger a top-10 center fielder heading into for the 2022 season. Olney amassed his annual list by receiving input from evaluators and others around baseball.
Bellinger checks in at No. 7 on the list, which is behind Mike Trout of the L.A. Angels (No. 1), Starling Marte of the Miami Marlins, Bryan Reynolds of the Pittsburgh Pirates, George Springer of the Toronto Blue Jays, Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox and Cedric Mullins of the Baltimore Orioles.
Rounding out the top 10 are Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins, Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Kiké Hernandez of the Boston Red Sox. Honorable mentions included Harrison Bader (St. Louis Cardinals), Ramon Laureano (Oakland Athletics), Myles Straw (Cleveland Guardians), Kevin Kiermaier (Tampa Bay Rays), Trent Grisham (San Diego Padres) and Adolis Garcia (Texas Rangers).
Bellinger is coming off the worst statistical season of his career after hitting just .165/.240/.302 with nine doubles, 10 home runs and 36 RBI in 95 games. A lot of that can be attributed to the 26-year-old spending three separate stints on the injured list.
Bellinger did manage to right the ship in October and emerged as one of the Dodgers’ better hitters in the postseason. He batted an excellent .353/.436/.471 with one double, one home run and seven RBI in 12 games.
Justin Turner called Bellinger’s success “one of the greatest season to playoff turnarounds ever.” Bellinger credited some of his postseason contributions to his improved health.
Bellinger signed to avoid arbitration before MLB lockout
Prior to the MLB lockout beginning, Bellinger and the Dodgers reportedly agreed to a contract worth $17 million for the 2022 season.
It represented a third time Bellinger was eligible for salary arbitration. He previously avoided arbitration with L.A. by agreeing to consecutive one-year contracts.
The Dodgers and Bellinger may soon find themselves back at the bargaining table as he now is eligible for a fourth and final year of salary arbitration after the 2022 campaign by way of previously being a Super Two player.
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