Cody Bellinger came into the 2015 season with player comparisons of James Loney and Eric Hosmer. While some may cringe at that, those are actually really good comps and Bellinger would be lucky to have either of those careers (minus the whole freeway incident Loney had a few years ago).
One other comp I heard was Adam LaRoche. Bellinger’s 2015 resembles more of a LaRoche profile than it does Loney or Hosmer.
The biggest question facing Bellinger (and he’s still just 20 years old — tied for 5th-youngest in the California League) is whether he would develop enough power to be more of a traditional first baseman. While it isn’t nearly as important to have a first baseman who can hit 30 home runs per season as it was 20-plus years ago, the ability to hit the ball hard is never a bad thing.
This season, Bellinger has answered that question to the tune of 25 home runs, 30 doubles and three triples. He’s third in the Cal League in total bases and trails Tyler O’Neill in home runs by one. Yes, he is doing this in a hitter-friendly environment, but not every park in the Cal League is a launching pad. And despite that, Bellinger is absolutely crushing some of these home runs. Here’s a video of the second home run he hit on Friday against the Stockton Ports.
An absolute shot (sorry for the unfocused portion toward the end). That would have been gone in any park — majors or minors. He is showing plus-bat speed and the ability to drive the ball with authority. Most of his power is to the pull side, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’d be ideal for him to consistently drive the ball the other way, but there are a lot of things in baseball that would be ideal.
The power surge is surprising even to me considering Bellinger had four home runs in his first two professional seasons (428 plate appearances). But, it has come at a price. His strikeout rate has jumped pretty significantly. It’s up more than 11 percent from last season (17.2 percent to 28.6 percent) , but his isolated power is up by a hundred points (.162 to .263). Definitely a give-and-take situation.
The average age of a California League player is 23.2. Bellinger just turned 20 on July 13. The fact he’s producing as much as he is while being more than three years younger than the league is mighty impressive. And I’ve had a scout tell me he’d rank Bellinger toward the top-half of the Dodgers’ prospects — in the company of Jose De Leon and Grant Holmes.
I’m not saying Bellinger is absolutely going to take over for Adrian Gonzalez when his contract expires, but it’s nice to know the Dodgers might have a viable first base option come 2019. He’s already MLB-ready defensively. Now, he just needs to continue to perform as he moves up the minor-league ladder.