In Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers have one of the younger, more impressive power prospects in the game. Bellinger is a tremendous athlete with a wirey frame who is a lot stronger than you think when you first lay eyes on him. While he really works uphill and is mostly a pull hitter at the moment, he has above-average bat speed and gets great barrel exit, which works to generate carry on his line drives and fly balls. He has been a fly ball, pull hitter to an extreme the past couple seasons (0.50 GB/FB ratio in 2016 with the vast majority of contact being the right side of the field), and that is cause for at least some concern as he’s face more consistent command at the higher levels. But Bellinger is still young for the level, and he’ll play 2017 at 21 years old, starting at either Double-A or Triple-A. While he does have some swing and miss, I attribute a lot of that to his approach and trying to hook everything looking for bigger home run numbers.
That said, I see more than enough athleticism in his actions to believe that he will make the adjustments as he advances and learn the use more of the field so that he doesn’t get pummeled by shifts. The ball jumps off of his bat, and he has very real power to center field and going the other way. He has tremendous hand/eye coordination and advanced feel for the barrel. In addition, he improved his strikeout rate from 27.6% in 2015 to 20.2% in 465 Double-A PAs, and his ISO (.221 at Double-A and .245 through 57 AFL PA’s) suggests that he does damage when he puts the ball in play. Also, his walk rates have improved each of the last three seasons at 4.8%, 9.6% and 12.7% (in Double-A) respectively. I don’t see him hitting .300 at the big league level, although somewhere in the .260’s with 20 homers and 25+ doubles is not a stretch.
Defensively, things are not quite as clear. He moves very well, but seems out of place at fist base. He has the tools to be a solid-average defender there, maybe a tick better, but his hands can get stiff on balls in the dirt and I don’t see the lateral quickness that the better defensive first baseman have (like Anthony Rizzo (Cubs), Freddie Freeman(Braves), and Mark Teixeira (Yankees)). I see his range playing better at a corner-outfield spot, where his average arm and fringe-average run will be more productive. Defensive utility is a highly valued asset nowadays, so I expect the Dodgers to continue to use him at both spots. So should Bellinger get off to a good start in 2017, I don’t expect the Dodgers to wait too long to try and fit him into their lineup.