Dodgers Need to Rally Behind Cody Bellinger in 2018
By Drew Gabruch
Yes, Cody Bellinger broke Dodger records last season. Yes, the young phenom also broke MLB records last season. Oh, and he was the winner of the National League Rookie of the Year Award, too. Looking ahead to the 2018 season, however, there will be a slightly different approach to go along with the work of a full regular season at the Major League level.
For Bellinger, after coming off of an amazing rookie season, there will undoubtedly be some hefty expectations for him to carry out through the course of a full season. Even when Cody thought he would be nothing more than a “September call-up” last year – everyone who saw him play for the Dodgers realized that he was the real deal, and he is surely here to stay. Like his American League Rookie of the Year counterpart, Aaron Judge, there was also a large number of adjustments that needed to be made.
Throughout the regular season, and through the postseason, pitching staffs were able to find more ways to get these offensive machines out. Bellinger and Judge had been striking out at astronomical rates – almost every plate appearance that they made in the postseason, it seemed. Now, we do know that there is a big sacrifice that has to be made sometimes if a team like the Dodgers or Yankees are looking for their power bat to come through, but if there is one thing that the reigning NL Rookie of the Year can work on improving, it should revolve mostly around making more contact.
Of course, we all saw the best of Houston’s pitchers take advantage of the lack of adjustments Cody made in the World Series, and that was painful. However, there is something that is worth highlighting; and that would be pitch recognition. Remember, Cody Bellinger only had 480 at-bats in 2017, since he had played in just 132 games after being called up. Also to note, we saw a lot of durability out of the rookie last year, which could translate to him seeing the field for (hopefully) more than 150 games this season.
Once a few more at-bats are thrown into his career, there will be more experience and discipline against certain pitchers and Cody will start to realize more tendencies around pitchers of the league; in turn making him more familiar with how certain pitchers want to attack him – leading into his solid approach to launching balls into the Dodger Stadium outfield pavilions.
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The upcoming sophomore season for Cody Bellinger will also be one that is similar to a teammate of his. Dodgers’ shortstop, Corey Seager, also played through his second big-league season, and he faired quite well, after being a staple in the Dodgers’ success in 2016. Another year in the show saw Corey maintain his consistency that he showed as a rookie, while still producing at an All-Star level. Now, even though Corey is known more for his contact and ability to spray the ball from gap-to-gap, he was forced to overcome some adversity, after being sidelined for more than one stint.
Maybe there is a common ground that can be explored by both Bellinger and Seager, in terms of staying healthy (for Corey) and finding a way to put more balls into the field (for Cody). Either way you slice it, these two have already proven to be productive at the Major League level and should continue to feed off of each other as competitors, with the hope that they are both driven to put up a successful 2018 campaign.
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If the success of the young crop of Dodgers can continue, we will definitely see more maturity take place, as well as a much tighter group in the clubhouse. Even as Dodger baseball was captivating on a nightly basis in 2017, there is certainly some unfinished business that players like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager will want to take care of in 2018. Clearly, the goal remains the same – bring the World Series Trophy back to Los Angeles.