MAKING THE MOST OF AN OPPORTUNITY
Special things have been happening all season where Bellinger is concerned. He entered the season as the Dodgers top-ranked prospect according to Baseball America.
In their evaluation of Bellinger, BA hung a 70 grade on his defense at first base. As for his hitting: “Bellinger has a chance to be a foundational hitter in the middle of the lineup,” went their summation.
They also opined that “he could make his debut in the second half of the year.” Clearly, Bellinger has accelerated that arrival timetable.
When the season opened, the four-time defending NL West champs didn’t have an opening for him. Veteran Adrian Gonzalez manned first base. The outfield had Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig as starters.
However, as so often happens, injuries opened up a playing opportunity. First, Toles went down for the season after suffering a torn ACL in early May that required surgery. Then AGonz went to the DL in June with a degenerative disc in his back.
By the time that Toles was lost, Bellinger had already hit himself to Los Angeles with a .343/.429/.627 slash line at AAA Oklahoma City in April. He then took over the left field role full-time following that injury to Toles. Since Gonzalez went down, Bellinger has shifted to first base.
His hitting has suffered little at the hands of big league pitching. Through Saturday night, Bellinger has a .271/.349/.639 slash line over his first two months of Major League Baseball. He has 26 home runs, 44 extra-base hits, 61 RBI, 52 runs scored, and even stolen five bases.
Those would be strong numbers for an entire season for most rookies. They would make him a Rookie of the Year candidate almost any year. However, Bellinger has those numbers over just 72 games and 301 plate appearances.
ALL-STAR GAME AND HOME RUN DERBY
Bellinger was selected for the National League team in last week’s MLB All-Star Game. He even participated in the Home Run Derby, falling with no shame to eventual champion Aaron Judge in the semi-finals.
Throwing to Bellinger during that Home Run Derby was his own father. Clay Bellinger appeared in four seasons from 1999-2002 with the New York Yankees. The senior Bellinger was a part of two World Series championship teams in the Bronx.
Clay knew early on that Cody had a special talent for the game. “We knew right away he was going to be pretty good,” he was quoted by McCullough in another LA Times piece. Clay had coached Cody as a kid, including their team that reached the 2007 Little League World Series.
Special talent. That’s what Bellinger has brought to the LA lineup here in 2017. Thanks in no small part to his contributions, an already good Dodgers team has become a powerhouse. If he can continue to rake as he has, he’ll add a Fall Classic to his Midsummer Classic appearance.
Corey Seager won the NL Rookie of the Year Award last season, becoming the 17th Dodgers rookie to capture that honor. The list includes such legends as Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson and Mike Piazza.
Bellinger is sure to become the 18th winner this fall. He and Seager are just beginning what should be a dynamic 1-2 combination in the Dodgers lineup for years to come.