The Dodgers have been the hottest team in baseball for quite some time now, partly because of the promotion of Cody Bellinger to the big leagues. When Cody was first called up, he played primarily in left field, but an injury to Adrian Gonzalez saw him shift to first base.
The Dodgers will eventually face a dilemma on what to do with Adrian Gonzalez when the first baseman he comes off the Disabled List. The 35-year-old has been hampered by injuries the past couple of seasons, which have led to a decline in performance at the plate.
Gonzalez has built a reputation of being a middle-of-the-order power hitter who plays first base at an elite level. However, the three-time Gold Glove winner has seemed a step slower this season, both at the plate and on the field, which is a lot given that he wasn’t the fleetest of foot, to begin with.
Cody Bellinger has been thought of as the Dodgers’ first baseman of the future and has been filling in at first during Gonzo’s absence. But what the Dodgers should come to realize at this point, is that the future is now. Bellinger has been playing exceptionally, and it is time to keep him at first base indefinitely.
The 21-year-old is hitting much better this season in his natural position as a first baseman. In 38 games at first this season, he is batting .328, with an OBP of .407, 17 home runs, and 43 RBI. In comparison to left field, he is only hitting .207 with an OBP of .276, seven home runs, and 13 RBI in 34 games. This success goes to show how comfortability on the defensive side of the ball can correlate to more success at the plate.
Based on these hitting statistics alone, it is clear that Bellinger belongs at first base right now and for many years to come. But if that isn’t enough, scouts are very high on Bellinger defensively at first base as well.
According to Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs:
"“Bellinger is an excellent defensive first baseman, garnering several 70 grades from scouts… Bellinger’s leather work at first is special and major-league clubs like sound defensive first baseman because they’re constantly handling the ball.”"
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For those of you who are unfamiliar with scouting grades, the scale is between 20-80. A score of 50 is considered average, and a 60 is a Plus. Bellinger’s score of 70 is considered Plus-Plus, which means scouts are predicting him to become an elite defender at first base and potentially a perennial Gold Glove winner.
For these reasons, when Gonzalez returns to the ball club, he should find himself next to the coaching staff on the bench. The rookie has the earned the right to stay at first base and has the potential to be the face of the franchise moving forward.
Another added benefit of keeping Bellinger at first is that this would keep left field open for the Dodgers to acquire a right-handed power hitter, like a J.D Martinez, at the deadline to further lengthen the lineup. I’m not saying this is a move the Dodgers will pursue, but it is food for thought.