Dodgers: The long-term battle between Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger
Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger has taken the league by storm since his major league debut on April 25. He is definitely a franchise centerpiece, but could he possibly become a better player than the Dodgers’ other young star Corey Seager?
It is an interesting question because nobody would have ever thought that Bellinger could possibly be in the same class as Seager before the season started, but his historic start to his career makes it an arguable debate between the two Dodgers‘ studs.
Bellinger hit five home runs in his first 11 games, something no other Dodger has done since 1900 and has hit three in the 12 games since then. Overall, statistically, Bellinger is on par if not better than Seager this season. He has two more HR, two more RBI (mainly because Seager bats second), has a much higher OPS, and a BA that’s just .003 lower.
He’s accomplished all this while playing 19 fewer games than Seager. That is some pretty remarkable stuff.
However, it is still too soon to make an honest assessment of how good Bellinger is going to be. He has got off to a very impressive start in his career, but I still need to see a lot more to say he can be better than Seager.
Remember when Yasiel Puig first came up in 2013 and tore the league apart his first month of the season? Puig looked like he was on the way to becoming a superstar player but that never came to fruition. I recall at that time there was a real debate among fans about who was going to be the better player between him and Mike Trout.
Nowadays a statement like that sounds ridiculous. Puig is still a solid player, but nowhere near the transcendent star, we thought he would be.
I don’t believe Bellinger will have that sort of downfall because he is much more polished than Puig was, but I do expect him to come down a little. So far Bellinger is hitting .291 through 86 at-bats. I do expect Bellinger to hit for a solid average throughout his career.
I don’t think he will be an all or nothing power hitter like to Joc Pederson, but I do expect his average to drop some as the season goes on.
Most seasons I will expect him to be around .280 maybe reaching .300 on occasion, but I expect Seager to be around .300 every year or else it would be considered a down season.
Seager at this point in his career is a much better all-around hitter with a more compact swing that lets him cover much more of the plate. Bellinger does have a great eye and very quick hands, but he does have a big swing that’s going to lead to strikeouts and affect his overall batting average.
Bellinger first started to make waves as one of the best prospects in the minors back in 2015. That year he had a big jump in his power numbers hitting 30 HR and then followed that up hitting 26 HR last year.
However, he wasn’t a great contact hitter, hitting for a solid but unspectacular .271 average over those two seasons, as well as averaging 131 strikeouts in each campaign. I predict some of those struggles will eventually carry over to the majors once pitchers figure him out more because most pitchers that he’s faced have only played against him once.
Once Bellinger faces these starters for the 2nd or 3rd time, they will have a better feel for his tendencies and exploit some of his weaknesses. On the other hand, Seager is a .307 career hitter and still has the potential to get better.
Another thing you have to take into consideration is the position they both play. At shortstop Seager plays a position that is much more valuable both offensively and defensively. Bellinger has been playing a lot in the outfield, but first base is the projected position he is going to play in the long run.
In the Majors, first base is historically reserved for big power hitters, and Bellinger definitely fits that role. Because of this, it is easier to find a first baseman that can hit with more power than a shortstop. It is much harder to find a shortstop with the abilities of a Corey Seager.
There are simply not a lot of shortstops in baseball that can provide that type of production from that position. Defensively it is also more valuable to have a great fielding shortstop than a first baseman.
I know Seager’s defense hasn’t been too sharp this year. According to Baseball Reference, he currently has a -10 defensive runs saved this year but he was considered league average in the category last year, and I’m not too worried about his defense going forward.
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Bellinger is smooth with the glove and projects as a future Gold Glove winner, but a shortstop has a lot more responsibility as a fielder, having to have much more range, a strong arm, and being able to turn double plays consistently.
Quite simply, it is harder to replace Seager’s production in the lineup than Bellinger because how valuable their respective positions are.
My final assessment is that I predict Bellinger will be the bigger power hitter out of the two, hitting home runs at a higher rate, but I believe Seager will still be the better all-around player over the long term. Seager has the potential to win multiple MVPs with the capability to hit for average, power, and play solid defense. This is no knock against Bellinger though, as he is going to be a special player in his own right.
Next: Ranking the Players that are Off-Limits
It is safe to say though that both of these players are going to be great for a long time and the Dodgers are lucky to have them both. The Dodgers’ future is going to look very bright with these two guys hitting in the middle of the lineup for many years to come.