Exactly How Valuable Is Cody Bellinger to Dodgers?

(Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Undeniably, the injury bug has bitten the Los Angeles Dodgers a bit hard so far this year, although many of the injuries could seemingly be much worse. Despite the injuries, though, Los Angeles has proven that it can win without some of the most important players on the field.

Cody Bellinger has not been in the lineup since the Oakland series on April 5. He was initially diagnosed with a contusion to the lower leg, but scans later revealed a hairline fracture to his fibula. Accordingly, his playing status changed from day to day to being out for several weeks. Without Bellinger in the lineup, the Dodgers have tallied an impressive 11-3 record.

Before his injury, Bellinger had gone 4-for-19 on the year, making a little noise with an RBI double in the season opener against the Rockies, while raking a triple in the second game. Outside of that, there’s not much to write home about offensively, as he is currently sitting with a .211/.286/.368 slash line in 21 plate appearances.

Nevertheless, for as much firepower as the Los Angeles batting order can offer, the team probably misses Bellinger most for his defensive skills. Since his absence, the Dodgers have used all three of Chris Taylor, Mookie Betts, and AJ Pollock in center field. Taylor leads the way with 11 appearances there.

No question, Betts has all the tools and more to man center, as made evident by his spectacular, game-saving catch against the Padres last Saturday. However, with Pollock having been on the shelf with groin problems, Mookie found himself flanked by Luke Raley and Zach McKinstry on several occasions. Sure, Raley and McKinstry are capable in these spots, but it’s certainly not the ideal pairing for a team looking to find itself in the World Series hunt come October.

In 2019, Bellinger registered a 1.6 dWAR, putting him right on the edge of the Top 10 for all position players in the MLB. That same season, he posted a 9.5 UZR, good enough for the fourth best in the majors among all outfielders. In 2020, he registered a 0.4 dWAR for the shortened season, which was a little above average for all big-league outfielders, as was his 0.2 UZR. Nonetheless, he did post a 3.0 RngR last season, which put him in the Top 8 in the majors. Regardless, his countless web gems and his 10 outfield assists in 2019 speak for themselves as far as his potential defensive value goes.

On the offensive side of things, his MVP year in 2019 will stand out in the Los Angeles record books for years to come. For those who don’t recall those numbers, he hit .305/.406/.629 with 34 doubles, 47 long balls, and 115 RBI, coupled with 15 stolen bases and 121 runs scored. Obviously, topping those numbers is quite the challenge, but he ended up hitting just .239/.333/.455 in 56 games in the shortened season last year, after making several adjustments to his swing. After hitting over .300 in the 2020 NLDS, he averaged just .200 in the NLCs and .136 in the World Series.

This year, he broke out another new stance, as he was much more open with his front foot, apparently giving him a better look at the ball.

Personally, I think the Dodgers can sustain much of their offensive production without Bellinger in the lineup, but not many teams have the luxury of guys like Betts, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, and Justin Turner cemented at the top of their respective batting orders. Still, with Bellinger in there, there are days when the team’s offense is nearly unstoppable.

Defense, though, is a different story. Pollock doesn’t have the range he had five years ago, and while Betts is more than capable, it creates a huge hole in right field. Taylor is definitely competent, but when other players like Gavin Lux and Pollock are questionable, Taylor’s utility services are definitely at a premium.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see the offensive numbers that Bellinger puts up by the end of the season, as many pundits wonder if the pitchers around the league have figured out his weaknesses and whether he will be able to adjust for long term success.

34 thoughts on “Exactly How Valuable Is Cody Bellinger to Dodgers?

  1. No denying that Belli’s defense is missed, but he hasn’t contributed anything much offensively this year and he wasn’t spectacular last year either. And, as you pointed out Dennis, we’re 11-3 without him.

    Just as a fun exercise, can anyone here think of a player we could trade Belli for, the results of the trade actually improving the team? Before you all kill me, I’m not actually suggesting we trade him. This is just an exercise in creative thinking. 🙂

    1. Cody Bellinger, DJ Peters, Ryan Pepiot, and Jacob Amaya in exchange for Josh Hader, Hayden Cantrelle, and Garrett Mitchell. There’s a blockbuster for you. Lots of different layers to that one.

      1. Interesting. Except for the fact that the Brewers probably couldn’t afford to keep Bellinger when his free agency comes up, I think they might do that trade. Not sure that AF would, although I guess Mitchell is considered their #1 prospect.

      2. Mitchell is their No. 1 prospect and fills the outfield vacancy created by Bellinger, at least from the long term perspective. Cantrelle provides middle infield depth. Hader pretty much makes the Los Angeles bullpen complete.

      3. I was thinking the Brewers wouldn’t do it because they couldn’t afford to keep Bellinger, but they won’t be able to afford Hader either. Both are controlled for two years after this season, although Cody is already making 10 mil more this year than Hader is. Long story short, I think the Brewers say no because of finances and the Dodgers say no because they value a power hitting center fielder more than an excellent closer.

      4. Bellinger is very valuable for his defense. And he may figure out his stance and offense eventually. Last year it was obvious his stance was wrong and most Major League scouts and evaluators thought his stance was a problem. With the Dodgers having highly regarded coaches I wonder why they have not been able to assist him to correct his issues. Is Bellinger too stuborn? Bellinger has the natural ability as he has shown. I am confused why he can be so streaky.

  2. Well we need another outfielder, even with bellinger, but our.one apparent weakness seems to be 2nd base and there are a few of those around. We could always use another starting pitcher. Better to trade a few of our prospects now before everyone figures out they aren’t. Dodgers are good at that.

    1. Have you given up on Lux, Gordon? I actually like what I’ve seen from him so far and I’m not ready to call him toast yet. I expect a decent season out of him this year and by next year I think we’ll see the Lux we all hoped he would be. That said, I admit the odds he never makes it are probably almost as good as my scenario.

      1. Don’t like what I see so far, but you have to give him this year before giving up. But not sure we need another 2nd baseman hitting 220. Where had one of those for 8 years. If Lux can hit it solves a multitude of long term problems. I’m just not sold. There are a couple of young players that may develop over the next few years but I would like to see somebody now and not taylor. He is too valuable as a multipositional player and probably isn’t the answer anyway.

      2. Fair enough. He certainly hasn’t shown enough to be named the permanent second baseman yet.
        I was far more down on him last year than I am this year. His attitude seems much better and his fielding has been very good. Yes, his batting average has bottomed out, but he doesn’t seem to be lost at the plate. So, I guess we can both agree that we won’t make a final decision until the season is over. Then we’ll forward our findings to Andrew.

        So if the powers that be came to you today and said they were benching Lux permanently, who would you want to get to play second and, assuming a trade would be involved, what would the trade be? And just in case you were wondering, Nick Punto has retired.

  3. Lux has shown enough to let us see how he progresses this year. He has been very good defensively and looks good at the plate. McKinstry has been incredible and I love his throwback ballplayer style and his joy playing the game. If Lux does not work I think McKinstry would but I think Lux will continue to improve he is very young still. Dodgers have several top prospects that can play 2nd, SS, and 3rd in a year or two,
    The Dodgers should listen to all offers on position players and some pitchers if it can improve the club. Friedman has shown talent at trading, drafting, and signing talent.
    The Dodgers have Pages and Rodriguez as top outfield prospects but they are listed as a couple of years out.
    Rios has not been as impressive this year hopefully he figures it out. Like Bellinger, major league pitching will figure out your weak areas. It is up to the batter to have the skill to change and continue to succeed. Rios needs to hit.

    1. I am really not a fan of Rios. Just an instinct and I trust the brain-trust who have proven we really need to not second guess them much these days. Still where is the fun in not second guessing in MLB? That is downright un-American to not second guess MLB front offices!!

  4. Bellinger is worth 5+ WAR if he’s in the lineup for 150 games. We don’t have a replacement that can do what he does. I don’t trade him. He’s team controlled for a few more years.

    I give Lux more time. We can afford to be patient with him.

    Agree about Rios.

  5. Jeff if needed right away I would think about playing McKinstry there. Possibly bring up Busch.

    1. I don’t think they feel Busch is ready yet Tmax, at least not defensively. McKinstry could certainly be used on a regular basis as the second baseman IF (and that’s a big if) he continues to hit. I’m a big fan of ZMac’s and hope that he forces his way into a permanent job as a starter. So far, he’s doing better than most of the guys we count on, but the season still has about 90% left to play. In the meanwhile, it’s very comforting to know we have CT3 and ZM8 to plug in wherever and whenever we need them.

    2. Aside from the Arizona Fall League, Busch hasn’t even played beyond Low-A ball yet. His hands and glove are his biggest issue right now. I don’t think they’ll even be able to bank on him being a second baseman until he successfully makes it beyond Double-A. For me, I go with Taylor and/or McKinstry at second when Lux is unavailable.

  6. Yes I have read Busch could play 1st well but not 2nd currently. His bat reportedly is very good.

    1. I would really like to see us always have strong defenders at second, third and short.
      Busch is probably never going to qualify so I’d like to see them give him some playing time at first and in left field. From what little I’ve seen of his hitting, it’s going to be fun to watch him when he gets here. And by the time that happens, we’ll also have a DH position available for him.

      1. When Busch was at UNC, he moved around between first base, short, and left field. His senior year, he appeared in 42 games at first base and 37 in left field. So it only makes sense the Dodgers are trying to make him a second baseman. But I guess that’s why they do what they do while we sit and watch.

  7. Here’s an interesting tidbit: We had a third baseman named Mike Bush who played 3rd base for the Dodgers in the mid ’90s. Had a very short MLB career, about 50 games, all with the Dodgers.

    Once Bear checks back in, I’m sure he’ll remember him.

  8. Pollock can be bought out after next year. Maybe Busch replaces him? Maybe Seager leaves, Lux replaces him and Busch plays second. A lot of maybes could be thrown out there.

    Bellinger and Lux are out, Mookie is day to day, Rios, Smith and Pollock have temporarily forgotten how to hit, Gonsolin and Kelly are out, and we are 14-4, 8-2 in our last 10. It’s good to be a Dodger fan.

  9. I’m pretty sure nick Punto would come back under the right conditions. Lux is young but we should know
    by year end. But in this day and age most of the superstars were raking by the time they are 23. Not many broke out at the age of 24/25 . And we know that minor leaguer stats are generally irrelevent. Mickinstry is now a 3 week wonder, but my choice for second base. Think I said before, we could have a real problem next year at 2nd. 3rd and short, so a lot weighs on lux.
    On a positive note I look around the league at the roster shuffling that goes on daily and think REALLY. Don’t think we have a lot to complain about.

    1. Lux has a wrist injury. He started out hot, but, got hurt somehow. At least that’s what we’re being told. Hope it’s true. This kid hit everywhere and was at the top of every top prospect list. He’s a terrific young player and we need to just hang in there with him. Even if it takes a while, somebody has to hit 8th.

      1. Lux’s record in the minors leads us to believe he will be able to hit. The current Dodger organization has not missed on forecasting talent. They brought Bellinger up from AA and few knew who he was. Lux I think will be a very strong player offensively and defensively. I watched Urias again yesterday on his 1-0 game in Seattle. he was very masterful. A joy to watch.

      2. I agree with that Tmax. This organization is getting it done. We are a very fortunate fan base.

        Now, what to do about a mercurial strike zone. I say ABS. Get consistency throughout the league. Everyone from those of us in our recliners to those who pay a $280 FCI to the players on the field deserve this. We can all see how bad umpires are. Aren’t they embarrassed? Fix it.

      3. So far the experiments with ABS in the Atlantic League seem to be gaining acceptance from both the players and the umps so I think at this point it’s just a matter of when, not if.

        SD is putting Lamet on the IL but they’re saying he might be back in a couple of weeks. I think they’re just postponing the inevitable.

        In other news, Joc to the IL with left wrist tendinitis. Apparently caught it from Lux and I didn’t even know it was contagious.

  10. Scoop I agree. They absolutely have to fix the umpires calling an inconsistent “personal strike zone”. It is infuriating.

    1. This is an ump that sets up too far inside. His eyes are off the plate. I was taught to keep your eyes over the plate. Remember, you don’t need to see where the ball is caught, you need to see where it crosses the plate. If you stay up over the inside corner the catcher won’t be in your field of vision. I’m continually amazed at how often I see these guys either out of position or moving when they make a call. Sometimes it can’t be helped, but this is the big leagues. An average of 84% correct is unacceptable.

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