Cody Bellinger’s ability to hit the baseball has been known around the league ever since he broke through with the Dodgers as a rookie in 2017.
lt’s late May and the sleek son of former MLB outfielder Clay Bellinger is still hitting .383. He launched his 19th homer of the season Monday, and at 23 years old he already has 83 career long balls.
But what may have remained underrated entering this week’s series against the Mets was Cody Bellinger’s outstanding defense.
Once considered a full-time first baseman, he now also serves as an above-average outfielder. That mid-career switch from a relatively stationary position to one requiring elite athleticism is rare, particularly for such a good hitter.
After his pair of throws to nail New York baserunners on Monday in a 9-5 victory – including a game-saving laser in the eighth inning – the league can no longer view Bellinger as a one-dimensional, offense-exclusive threat. His quickness and arm strength in the field are simply too impressive for that label.
As an appetizer in the fifth inning, Bellinger threw out Mets catcher Tomas Nido at the plate. While this was certainly impressive, it was still against one of New York’s slowest baserunners.
Bellinger’s eighth-inning play, however, was one of the best defensive assists of the season. After ranging back several steps to track down a one-out fly ball from right field, he unleashed a perfect throw to third base to nab Carlos Gomez.
“My mentality was to just throw it as hard as I could,” Bellinger told reporters after the game. “I didn’t think I had a chance (to throw out the runner) at home, so I set my sights at third.”
Bellinger’s defensive plays Monday night confirmed to a wide audience what Dodgers fans already knew: the kid can play the outfield at a high level. With skills in the field to pair with his smooth swing, Bellinger is a legitimate MVP challenger to Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich.
At this point, though, Bellinger is enjoying the in-the-moment feelings of one of the best starts to a season in recent memory, when everything has seemed to fall into place for him.
“You don’t have many opportunities sometimes to (make impressive defensive plays),” Bellinger said, “so when you do have the opportunities, you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
At least one person in the Dodgers’ clubhouse sees an award in Bellinger’s future.
“I don’t know if they give out Gold Gloves in May,” manager Dave Roberts told reporters, “but it’s hard to see it play out any other way.”
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