There should only be one way fans digest, enjoy and properly dissect spring training play, but it’s hard when society is mostly irrational. For Los Angeles Dodgers fans, this should be a time of relative excitement.
The roster is already stacked top to bottom. The prospect pipeline is promising. The offseason acquisitions are getting acclimated. Life is good.
As for “evaluating” what happens before the season officially starts, the only progress that should be tracked is that of prospects with promise to rise through the system and/or an expedited MLB debut timeline; new role players looking to fill a void and make an impression; and struggling major leaguers looking to get back on track.
Cody Bellinger is in that latter category. Typically, he wouldn’t fall into the “let’s track his progress” type of player during spring training. He’s already achieved star status. When those guys “struggle” when the games don’t matter, it’s hardly a concern. They’re usually just working to get back up to speed and entrench themselves in their rhythm before Opening Day.
But Bellinger has largely been a disaster since 2020. Though the shortened season was not at all a reason to judge his performance, what followed in 2021 made it more relevant. Because now, since the start of 2020, Bellinger is slashing .195/.278/.364 over his last 151 games.
This spring? He’s missing everything.
Is Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger actually broken?
Bellinger has started the most games for the Dodgers this spring as of this writing (seven) and is hitting a horrible .158 with 14 strikeouts and one walk in 19 at-bats. On Saturday, his streak of consecutive strikeouts reached eight. EIGHT! In spring training!
Performing poorly in spring training against lesser competition after almost a full season’s worth of career-worst games (that were also characterized by injuries) makes it hard for fans to not wonder if this is Bellinger’s fate in what could be his final season with the Dodgers.
Some speculated as early as this offseason that the Dodgers could realistically opt to non-tender Bellinger due to his high price tag. Though the two sides avoided arbitration at $17 million (the slugger didn’t get a raise from his 2021 salary due to his almost league-worst play), Bellinger still has one final season of arbitration left in 2023. If these struggles continue and he’s closer to this form rather than his MVP capabilities, you can bet the non-tender conversation will be a lot more serious heading into next offseason.
And sadly, at this point, it’s hard to envision a world where Bellinger does a near-complete 180, because he continues to look worse and worse (outside of his short-lived postseason performances against the Giants and Dodgers). Still just 26, he has plenty of time to figure it out.
However, he won’t have a long leash with the Dodgers given their expectations and his arbitration situation, which will likely make for a troubling storyline throughout the 2022 season.