Considering the high number of pitching prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, it’s quite refreshing when a position player reels in the accolades and climbs the rankings list.
Cody Bellinger was drafted by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB draft. After passing up a baseball scholarship at the University of Oregon, he began his career in the minors with the Arizona League Dodgers at the age of 17 and has never looked back.
Bellinger was named to both the first and second-half Cal League All-Star teams last season, and was named MVP of the Cal League Championship Series in which the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes swept the San Jose Giants three games to none. He was also voted as the best defensive first baseman in the Cal League for 2015 by Class-A managers and coaches.
He’s currently ranked as the fifth best prospect in the Dodgers’ organization by Ben Badler of Baseball America, although that could be amended to a fourth place ranking considering Jose Peraza‘s departure to Cincinnati.
Well known for being a high contact and line drive-type hitter early on, Bellinger sacrificed his batting average for a little bit of power last year, slashing .264/.336/.538 in 478 at-bats while recording 30 HR, 103 RBI, 52 walks and 10 steals.
Listed at 6’4″ and 180 lbs. on the Quakes roster, Bellinger says he’s now up to about 195 lbs. — which is part of the reason for the recent power surge.
“I don’t have to use my whole body to get it out any more,” Bellinger stated. “I’m still young and I know more weight will come as I fill out naturally. I’m excited to see what happens when I do.”
He also added that extra work in the cages and a few adjustments of his swing were key to last season’s success.
“Honestly, the game really slowed down for me this year,” Bellinger said. “Skipping a level, it was a little bit of an adjustment period to start. I have to give a lot of credit to our hitting coordinator, we were working on my swing all offseason. I always had the power — it was just a matter of time before I developed. He really helped me incorporate my hands into my swing. I’m using my hands a lot more, and the pitches I was hitting last year in the gap are going over the fence this year.”
Many scouts say that Bellinger’s glove may be his best asset, and coupled with his speed, he’s also found recent success in center field. All things considered, Bellinger believes that his true talent still lies at first base.
“They told me, the more positions you can play the better,” Bellinger added. “So I was all up for it, accepted it, and we’ll see where it goes. But definitely see myself as a first baseman and I think they do, too.”
Upon scouting him at June’s Carolina-California Class A Advanced All Star Game in Rancho Cucamonga, Bernie Pleskoff, who served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners, had this to say about Bellinger:
“It appears obvious that Bellinger has an outstanding grasp of baseball fundamentals. Having learned from his father and good coaches along the way, Bellinger has poise, composure and baseball acumen beyond his years. About to turn 20 in mid-July, he looks and plays like a seasoned veteran.
“He has the type of quick bat that produces a crucial base hit at the right time in the game. He will be a force with runners on base, because he knows the strike zone well and has the patience to wait for a pitch he can drive. Bellinger will get his share of RBIs by hitting the ball from gap to gap.
“I think Bellinger can become a fan favorite. He hustles, plays extremely good defense, gets important base hits and is a consummate team player. If Bellinger can develop power, he could become a fixture at first base. Even if he doesn’t hit 20 homers a year, his contribution as a run producer will be welcomed.”
One season in the California League at High-A is only a small sample size and shouldn’t be used as a platform to elevate Bellinger into superstar status. However, based on his pedigree, his hustle and his work ethic, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in Dodger Blue a few years down the road.
(Photo Credit: milb.com)