Let’s start small. The discovery of a new planet. World peace. Preparations for a 2020 presidential run that unites the warring parties. And the toughest task of all, an encore for his amazing rookie campaign.
So before we get into 2018, we’ll take a look back at his meteoric rise to rookie stardom. When all was said and done, Bellinger clobbered 39 home runs in 2017, leading all National League rookies by a wide margin, and finishing second among all rookies to only the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who hit an otherworldly 52. As amazing as that accomplishment is, it’s magnified by the fact that he did so in only 132 games, since he started the year in the minors.
Along the way to those 39 home runs, Bellinger tied the record for fastest to 20 homers, before reaching 21 faster than anyone before.
More than a lumbering slugger in the Adam Dunn mold, he also stole 10 bases in 13 attempts. Not to be overlooked, he played gold glove caliber defense at first base.
So yeah, that’s a tough act to follow.
All that said, there were a few warts. Like a lot of power hitters, Bellinger tends to strike out quite a bit. In the World Series in particular, the Houston Astros seemed to find a hole in his majestic swing, with right handers targeting his back foot with down-and-in breaking pitches. He couldn’t lay off them, and couldn’t really hit them either, striking out a record 17 times in the Fall Classic. He says he’s not worried about those issues continuing into 2018 but as with most things in baseball, it’s worth monitoring.
During the off-season, Bellinger bulked up by 15 pounds, and not due to his well-known affinity for strawberry ice cream bars. He went full beeftank, adding solid muscle. Fly balls dying on the warning track weren’t really an issue for him but it’s possible fatigue may have been, so it’s probably not a bad thing.
Now, what does all this mean for 2018? Well, not to be the nay sayer, but a bit of regression probably has to be expected. All of the tools you saw on display last season were absolutely real. The prodigious power. The surprisingly good running speed. The quality defense. All real. So, however, are the holes, which until he proves otherwise by being able to adjust, will be the target of every pitcher he faces.
It wouldn’t be fair to expect a repeat of his ridiculous 142 OPS+ anyway. But it wouldn’t be unfair to hope for something in the 128 to 132 range.
Over the course of a full season, the home run rate he displayed in the second half of 2017 is sustainable. Everyone now knows he’s coming, so 20 jacks in the first 50 games ain’t happening. But mid thirties for the year? Why not?
He should easily top 100 RBIs, hitting behind Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and company. Even a modest increase of stolen base totals can be expected, now that he’s got a season’s worth of familiarity. And if we’re being realistic, you can expect a slight dip in his batting average. That to go along with a strikeout total in the range of 175 plus.
Assuming good fortune with health, I’m predicting a triple slash of .254/.368/.550, with 36 home runs, 113 RBI, 14 stolen bases, and for good measure, a Gold Glove award and All Star Game appearance.
See it differently than I do? Let me know @thestainsports on Twitter. Thank you for reading.
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