Dodgers: Is Cody Bellinger Conditioned Enough for the 2018 Season?

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 28: Cody Bellinger
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 28: Cody Bellinger /

Cody Bellinger has entered spring training with a new look. His body is much bigger and stronger than it was in 2017 and it could certainly help him on the field. His reported physical improvement will help prepare him for the rigors of a long season, hopefully including another extended playoff run. But, those gains won’t mean jack if he didn’t do anything to grow mentally this offseason. Successfully carrying the weight of the Dodgers will require more work than just his body.

For Cody to have a successful sophomore season he will need to move past mental barriers from last season. Here are the categories in which he will have to improve upon this year:

Fatigue makes cowards of us all

No matter how strong or talented we are, fatigue can get the best of us. Think of a time you got home from work where you were racking your brain all day and it feels like you ran a marathon once you finally get to rest. Think about all the pressure Bellinger faced once he burst onto the scene at the end of last April. He was the catalyst behind an epic World Series run last season, turning the team around once he came up from the minors that earned him NL Rookie of the Year honors and NL MVP consideration. The long grind of a season which ended in a major slump certainly wore on his moral. Bellinger will have to come into this season fresh with the past behind him and well rested for the 162-game grind.

Tall task for the lanky lefty

Dealing with the pressure of carrying his team from April to October while being in the spotlight for a 21-year-old was surely mentally taxing. I can’t find any other reason why Cody had that meltdown during the World Series when his team needed him the most. He was just too tired and couldn’t do what seemed so easy to the rest of us, lay off that inside breaking ball at his back foot. The frustrated look on his face after every strikeout was painful to watch because it was clear he was struggling to compete. Bellinger’s mental ability to hit a ball is equally as important as the muscles on his arms. Bellinger will need to learn from his mistakes last October.

Conditioning Cody with confidence

No one can ever take away how great Cody was for the Dodgers in 2017, no matter how many times he struck out on the big stage. Hitting 39 homers as a rookie in the big leagues when he was supposed to be down in the minors getting more seasoning was just remarkable. His defensive versatility was just as great. I firmly believe the team would not have reached the World Series without Bellinger. We all saw that he has the superstar “it” factor that can not be taught. There is no right answer as to how he can mentally recover from that World Series meltdown. Cody needs

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to be confident in his preparation, focus, and ability to perform at the highest level consistently for his team. He needs to do the simple better and have fun every day playing the sport we all love.

Analytics cannot predict mental growth

Advanced metrics, analytics, and statistics have taken over baseball. Front offices and coaches rely on them now more than ever to try and get that competitive edge. What cannot be measured or predicted is the mental growth and maturity of any given player.

For every Mike Trout, there are tons of prospects who flame out at different parts of their respective careers. Late bloomers (hello Justin Turner and Chris Taylor) are abundant in sports too, and even in life. Simply put, everyone is different when it comes to turning that corner with mental growth.

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Can Cody be a bust this season or overall? It’s possible. Can he be a Hall of Famer? Very possible too. I have faith in Cody Bellinger having what it takes to continue taking steps forward on the field with both the physical and mental aspects of the game. He will be an MVP candidate while making the Dodgers perennial title contenders for at least another decade.