While we’ve seen moments of a possible resurgence of a 2019 Bellinger this year, it hasn’t come close to full circle, and fans are starting to become restless about the former MVP’s future.
If you’re ingrained in any Dodger social media space, you’ve probably seen the Jerry Hairston Jr. rant on Bellinger in the Sportsnet LA postgame. Hairston made some excellent points, and with the postseason coming soon, it raises the question of how Bellinger will be used.
Several injuries in 2021 contributed to Bellinger posting the worst statistical regular season of his career. However, in the postseason, he recorded 12 hits and seven RBI; he also had some of the biggest and clutch Dodger hits.
This year, Bellinger currently has a batting average of .200 along with 17 homers and 55 RBI, and he’s also added 12 stolen bases. Surprisingly, he’s hit 17 homers, with his batting average. But the reasoning behind why fans are distraught is that he’s proven he could be so much better.
In contrast, during his MVP season, he hit .305 with 47 homers and 115 RBI. In his rookie year in 2017, he hit 37 homers with 97 RBIs.
This offseason, the Dodgers signed Bellinger to a one-year deal worth $17 million to avoid arbitration. He’ll be arbitration-eligible again this offseason. In 2024, Bellinger will be an unrestricted free agent.
If he continues to struggle into next season, the Dodgers will face the decision to cut ties with Bellinger after three disappointing seasons, which is a distinct possibility, as many free agents are looming for the Dodgers over the next couple of seasons.
Now that brings in the question, how will manager Dave Roberts use Bellinger during the playoffs?
With the surging Trayce Thompson and the number of potential outfielders the Dodgers have on the roster, Bellinger may be the odd man out. I’m not saying he won’t be on the postseason roster. In all likelihood, he will be, but maybe not a regular player or starter.
The main reason Bellinger has been able to start in center field has been his glove and the ground he can cover. At this point, Bellinger appears to be more of a late-inning replacement unless his bat gets going and he earns himself more starts.
It’s going to be very intriguing to see how Bellinger performs for the remainder of 2022 and into 2023 and what the Dodgers go regarding his 2024 free agency status.