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Dodgers: What Strides Can Cody Bellinger Make In 2020?

On the brink of MVP to Generational Talent?

With all the ongoing chaos, sometimes it’s important to stop and smell the roses. Indeed, in this case I ask you to pause and recognize that the Los Angeles Dodgers arguably have the best player in the National League at the current time.

While there’s no guarantee that Bellinger holds the title belt for any defined amount of time, the case can be made right now that he’s among the game’s best. Furthermore, if Bellinger can post a season similar to his 2017 and 2019 campaigns, suddenly 2018 begins to look like the outlier ‘weird’ year.

Altogether, Bellinger has bWAR totals of 4.2, 4.2, and 9.0 in three straight seasons. Therefore, another 8 to 9 tally in that category could put him in Mike Trout territory being that he is entering his age-24 season.

Recently, Dodgers Nation asked you how Bellinger can build upon his already great resume.

Furthermore, we all hope that this is a generational talent and that the ride has only begun. Let’s look at some items that could help Bellinger begin to cement a legacy.

Can Bellinger Win Back-To-Back MVP Awards?

Notably, the 2020 NL MVP odds are fresh off the press at the Las Vegas Westgate. Right now, Ronald Acuña Jr. leads the pack with a +300. Then, Christian Yelich checks in second. From there, Bellinger is in a three-way logjam with Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. for third most likely as it sits today.

Here is a look at the full frontrunner odds:

So what does this mean? Right now, oddsmakers don’t necessarily see Bellinger as a lock to repeat as MVP. While that is no shock, it’s important to note that he’s not a longshot either. There are some excellent players below him, and it won’t take anything out of the realm of his ability to win back-to-back MVP awards.

What Will Improve Bellinger’s Overall Game?

Overall, the majority of responses point towards one thing in regards to Bellinger. Of course that word I read over and over was ‘consistency’. Whether people want to see better performance from the first half to the second, Bellinger at one spot defensively, or postseason performance that matches his regular season production; this was the overriding theme of response.

Already, it seems the Dodgers have given into the thought of making Bellinger a full-time centerfielder. Still, he will see his time at first-base in those spots that they lean on their versatile roster. However, Bellinger should expect to see a bulk of his playing time as the keystone outfielder in the upcoming year. This is probably the best move to take advantage of the fact he’s probably the most athletic player on the team. While it will help his defensive metrics if he performs to career norms, it could provide a second advantage.

Players in the big leagues thrive upon comfort. Constantly, you hear players like Bellinger talk about the importance of a routine. When you come to the ballpark knowing you’re going to play in the same spot every day, it can only help the mental approach. Now, could this mean that we get a more stable performing player on a daily basis? Perhaps, and judging by the responses to our tweet; you all feel this is important as well.

Performing During Stretch Run & October

This next segment builds on our last one. While I read some responses that said ‘steal more bases’ – something I would love to see – there is nothing right now that indicates the Dodgers will give Bellinger a green light on the bases more in 2020. In fact, if Bellinger can steal 15 bases again like he did in 2020; I’ll sign up for that right now.

We have all talked about Bellinger’s struggles in the second half of 2019 and his overall body of work in October. So far, he’s a .178 hitter in playoff baseball with a .560 OPS. He has 52 strikeouts to 10 walks. Forget comparing those numbers to his regular season career, you don’t need to do that to know he’s hit like a pitcher in the postseason; four home runs notwithstanding.

The best theory I can develop is that Bellinger needs a better plan or approach when it comes to October. Not only is he facing the best arms the game has to offer whether it’s a starter or reliever, he’s facing coaching staffs who know how to exploit him.

Bellinger has been at his best in the regular season when he keeps his approach and stance simple, with little tinkering. Is it possible that in the playoffs he begins thinking too much when asked to make adjustments? In a vacuum, one can deduct that Bellinger must find a way to be mentally sharper when it counts most. Already one of the most physically gifted players in the game, those boxes are checked. In the postseason and pennant race, it will come down to his approach between the ears.

The prescription for this? Continued work with Dr. Brant Brown and Dr. Robert Van Scoyoc, and let the rest happen organically. With a player as talented as Bellinger, you have to believe that he will eventually make the adjustment and become a great player in October, and more consistent overall. Great coaches bring out greatness in great players by reminding them of the things they already know. We saw this in 2019 with a few tweaks to Bellinger’s game, and he became an even better version of the 2017 rookie that exploded on the scene.

Conclusion

Overall, we are living a charmed life watching Bellinger play on a nightly basis. Every organization in the game aspires to land a player who can do what Bellinger has already done by the age of 23. I believe most Dodgers fans realize how special Bellinger is – and the scariest part is his ceiling could even be higher.

In all likelihood, you are looking at a guy who will hit at least .270 to .280 with 35 to 40 home runs and all the other beautiful counting stats he’s provided in his first three years. Nothing suggests that his defense will suffer, and it could even improve with regularity at one position. Moreover, when Bellinger gets hot; the team can ride the crest of the wave that can carry them for one or two week stretches.

Last but not least, a consistent hitter behind Bellinger in the order on a nightly basis could do wonders for keeping his valleys and peaks more even-keel. Don’t forget the benefit of a great hitter in the on-deck circle getting the batter at the plate pitches to hit. In 2019, the Dodgers never really had one guy behind Bellinger full time that did this, making his MVP season numbers that much more impressive. Could that player be Corey Seager or Max Muncy? Without question, those two or a thumper the Dodgers add in a trade could fill that role.

Here’s to an MVP season, and improving upon an already all-around solid game in all facets for Bellinger in 2020.

NEXT: Cody Bellinger Not Laughing at Justin Verlander’s Comments on Astros

Written by Clint Evans

Clint lives in Ohio, and played collegiate baseball. He loves the Dodgers due to his first memories of Chavez Ravine when he was nine years old. The voice of Vin Scully has been a staple in his life since he was a kid. No amount of baseball talk is ever enough, and he wishes the regular season was year round. He has written about baseball online since 2007.

11 Comments

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  1. How about Bellinger bunting, especially to the left side of the infield? Opposing teams shift to the right side every time he’s at bat, and those bunts would be easy base hits. Plus, maybe the threat of a bunt would shift the defense back so the right side of the defense would be more open.

    • Totally agree. I seem to remember him bunting twice for base hits at the start of the season and then giving that up for the HR ball. Swinging and dropping to one knee does not help the batter make contact. Don’t know if that’s on Belli or Roberts lust for the HR ball because he’s not smart enough to manufacture runs. I believe this was the major reason his avg dropped after the 1st 2 months. He should go back to the nice smooth swing he had before going for the HR ball with the elevated swing and dropping to 1 knee. Bunting the ball down the 3rd baseline would open up the Rightside of the infield giving him a better chance of hitting the ball thru.

  2. In his three years as a Dodger the one constant with Bellinger is that he disappears in September & October. I think it’s just because he’s gassed. Not sure that it is between his ears. In 145 post season plate appearances he is a .178 hitter. I hope that whatever it is he figures it out because Dodgers will never win WS without him being better.

  3. If he can get even close to the same results in the postseason as he does all regular season long that would be all the stride Cody needs to make. The regular season obviously he is great (the best in the NL last season) but he has to show up in the postseason. That’s all we need from BELLY

  4. Yep, he did a bit of slapping the ball to the opposite side early as well as bunting. He is fast enough to get some doubles that way. Like you guys are saying, just a bit of that will spread the defense back to the left. And more balls will get through the right. Cody is a special talent; and a tweak back that way could reap huge benefits

  5. Folks, it can all come down to what Roberts does here. First, consistency can be obtained if Roberts stops the shuffle board game with him and others as far as defensive positions are concerned. Secondly, and I have said this many times before, a legit impact hitter to bat behind Bellinger daily would help and that hitter should be an impact RH bat. But instead, as we saw last year, ole Roberts puts guys like Kiki, Taylor or even Tyler White behind him and that won’t cut it. If the 5th place hitter is not one that puts any fear at all in any opposing pitcher then expect Bellinger not to be pitched to again and I believe THAT was a big part of his 2nd half drop off in 2019

  6. Pollack is going to have a better year. But not sure it will be the strong bat we need. That leaves Smith. He could be the man. But I would be hesitant to put him in that spot unless he has a super strong spring. The best option to me would be Seager batting second and Muncy fifth. He is a lefty; but I can’t see moving any of our righties behind Cody.

  7. If Cody Bellinger can just stop playing video games every night, he’ll win another MVP this year. Those things give you worse hangover than alcohol, they make you mentally tired.

  8. Bellinger is the best athlete and pure baseball player the Dodgers have. But it’s very easy to to point out how he can improve. He can carry his regular season performances into the postseason where it really counts.

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