(News4usonline) – Cody Bellinger won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2019. At only 23 years old, Bellinger looked like one of the brightest young stars in Major League Baseball (MLB) playing for one of the biggest markets in the sports.
Still 26 years of age, memories of his historic 2019 season still bring hope that the centerfielder can return to being a major contributor on a championship team in the coming years.
Bellinger will look to have a bounce back year in 2022 after his numbers have fallen off devastatingly over each of the past two seasons. Since batting .305 in his MVP season, Bellinger dropped 66 points in the shortened 2020 season. He followed up in 2021 batting at a hitting clip lower than expected, dipping another 74 points, well below the Mendoza Line average of .165 last year.
Players of Bellinger’s talent typically do not fall off a cliff at such a young age. Many of Bellinger’s struggles can be attributed to nagging injuries; having plagued the Gold Glover ever since the Dodgers World Series run in 2020 when he dislocated his shoulder after a dramatic game-changing home run.
The Dodgers hitting coaches, Brant Brown and Robert Van Scoyoc talked to the media during spring training about Bellinger and what to expect from him this season at the plate.
“We understand wanting results… Belli operates fast… we want him to be the best,” Brown said. “He wants himself to be the best. He is really trying to navigate on what his feels are… trying to be more in tune with what the real is versus the feel. we thought last night was a really good night for him.”
Bellinger made solid contact in both of his at-bats in a preseason game against the Guardians.
Bellinger has a big swing that he has constantly tinkered with throughout his career. The big left-handed stroke is the reason he generates so much power, but it has also lacked consistency.
“We have been encouraging him to use left center since 2019,” Van Scoyoc. “That is the message. The goal is to get a consistent routine. If he want to experiment, he is his own person. It is his swing, his career, and we got to be there to help and support him.”
Coming back from injuries and trying to live up to the potential that is created by winning the MVP award at such a young age can be tough, Van Scoyoc added.
“It is probably both (mental and physical), there are probably elements of both in there and we have to work through both aspects,” Van Scoyoc said.
After trading outfielder AJ Pollock to the White Sox for closer Craig Kimbrel, the Dodgers appear to be willing to let Bellinger work through his struggles from last season. If they can get him back to the level of play he was at, even in 2017-2018 when he broke into the league, they will have another All-Star in their already loaded lineup.
Bellinger finally started to break out of his slump during last year’s playoffs by coming up with a number of clutch hits during the postseason.
“Despite having a year that he didn’t necessarily like, his ability to compete in the playoffs was above standard,” Brown said. “Prior he would have great regular seasons, and then not (be) so good postseasons. So I feel like that portion of his development is in a good spot and now we just need to see how we can mix that to where he feels comfortable.”
It should not come as a surprise if Bellinger puts his name back in the conversation as one of the best young stars in baseball. He is only two seasons removed from batting .305 with 47 home runs, 115 runs batted in, and 121 runs while also playing at a Gold Glove level in centerfield.
Only time will tell if he can return to being the player he was coming into the league, but his past history combined with his age and talent level would suggest a return to grace for the former MVP in the upcoming season, assuming he can stay healthy.