While three Los Angeles Dodgers prospects were named to the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game, only two — Cody Bellinger and Willie Calhoun — participated. Alex Verdugo, who was selected but did not attend, is joining Mexico’s U23 team to play in an upcoming exhibition series against Japan.
The trio spent the entire season shining with Double-A Tulsa, and though it was reduced to a duo on Saturday, Bellinger and Calhoun did not disappoint.
Calhoun has only played in nine of 22 AFL games, but he’s made an impression and got the start at second base for the West team, hitting eighth.
In his first at-bat, Calhoun quickly fell behind 0-2, but after fouling off a curveball, he evened up the count at 2-2 before drilling a line-drive single into center field.
Then, in the next inning, he came up with two on and two outs. Again, falling behind 1-2, Calhoun fouled off four straight pitches before getting a grounder through the drawn-in infield, leading to both runners scoring.
The power-hitting Calhoun saved his best for last. With a runner on in the fifth inning, he took an inside changeup for a strike. The next pitch was a fastball that caught too much of the plate and Calhoun crushed it onto the berm beyond right-center field for a two-run homer.
He finished the night 3-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored, and was named MVP of the Fall Stars Game.
Bellinger started at first base and hit second in the West lineup. In his first at-bat, Bellinger swung through a changeup, but quickly adjusted.
The next changeup he saw was low and away, and he barely moved his bat. The final pitch Bellinger got in the at-bat was also a changeup, but this one caught too much of the plate. He gave it a ride but it was caught just in front of the wall in center field.
Bellinger’s next two at bats showed he still has room to improve offensively. His second time up, the East pitcher adjusted and began busting the first baseman inside. The at-bat ended when Bellinger was jammed by a fastball and harmlessly grounded out to first.
In his third at-bat, Bellinger got overzealous and over swung, leading to him losing his footing and striking out on an awkward swing. But it was Bellinger’s fourth at-bat that fans and scouts will remember.
Against a tough lefty, Bellinger got a steady diet of breaking balls. He showed excellent discipline and recognition, refusing to chase off the outside part of the plate.
With a full count, he got another slider, but this one hung over the inner half of the plate and Bellinger smashed it high in the air and over the right field wall for a home run. In his final at bat, Bellinger again swung and missed at a slider down and in.
He went 1-for-5 with the home run, two RBI, one run scored and two strikeouts.
Along with Corey Seager, the 2016 season saw the best of what the Dodgers had to offer in terms of pitching prospects. Next season figures to provide something different, with three of the Dodgers’ top hitting prospects likely to begin the year with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
While it probably won’t be on Opening Day of the 2017 season, expect to see Bellinger, Calhoun and Verdugo in Dodger Stadium sometime next year.
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