Setting his sights on bouncing back from an inconsistent sophomore campaign, Cody Bellinger has done just that and more for the Los Angeles Dodgers, developing into one of baseball’s most talented two-way stars this season.
The 24-year-old is in the midst of one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history, which has put him at the forefront of the 2019 National League MVP race.
Cutting back on strikeouts while improving against left-handed pitching, Bellinger has already set career highs in a plethora of categories, including doubles, home runs, RBI, walks and on-base plus slugging.
In addition to his elite tools on offense, Bellinger has also emerged as one of the most underrated defenders in baseball. Though he was primarily a first baseman in each of his first two seasons, the two-time All-Star has received the bulk of his opportunities this year as a right fielder.
Despite having logged just 37 innings at the position entering the 2019 season, Bellinger has taken the transition in stride and should be considered a legitimate Gold Glove candidate for his work on the field.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts praised Bellinger for putting an emphasis on defense, via Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times:
“When I think of a leader, it’s a person who is unselfish,” Roberts said. “When you’re really putting a priority on defense, that shows leadership.”
Accumulating 911.1 innings in right field this season, Bellinger has committed just two errors while tallying 10 assists. What’s more, he has accumulated 21 defensive runs saved while grading out to an excellent 15.5 UZR/150.
In addition to right field, Bellinger has also seen time at center field and first base this season — garnering rave reviews at those positions as well.
Roberts noted Bellinger’s transformation on defense this season and attributed his success to being around the sport for decades:
“He’s a plus defender anywhere you put him,” Roberts said. “I’ll tell you this: Cody’s baseball instincts are on the higher end and it’s because he’s been around the game for so long.”
Bellinger, of course, is the son of former MLB utility man Clay Bellinger, who enjoyed a four-year career with the New York Yankees and Anaheim Angels that resulted in three World Series championships.
Having played baseball for the majority of his life, Bellinger participated in the 2007 Little League World Series, representing his hometown of Chandler, Ariz., on the West team. Just 11-years-old at the time, he fittingly homered in his first game in front of a national audience.
After enjoying a four-year stint at Hamilton High School, Bellinger was drafted by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft. A solid showing with Triple-A Oklahoma City earned him his first Major League promotion in 2017, to which Bellinger capitalized with one of the best rookie seasons in history.
Already earned multiple accolades this season, Bellinger entered play Sunday batting an outstanding .302/.405/.625 with 33 doubles, three triples, 45 home runs, 110 RBI and 14 stolen bases.