We’ve talked a lot this season about Cody Bellinger‘s bat and his impact on the Dodgers’ offense. It’s probably going to win him the National League MVP. And while his defense definitely gets talked about, it may not get talked about enough.
Bellinger is a defensive dynamo, which is difficult being left-handed and limited to four non-pitcher positions — first base and all three outfield spots.
We all know about Bellinger’s prowess at first base. Some scouting reports — when he was drafted — said he was near MLB-ready defensively at the position. In the pros, he has shown his ability at the position, even if the advanced metrics don’t blow you away (and they’re pretty modest for all first basemen).
He took up for Yasiel Puig in right field this season and, well, all he’s doing is posting an MLB-best (with Nick Ahmed) 19 defensive runs saved at any position. He’s probably going to win the Gold Glove (maybe even the Platinum Glove) there. Oh, and don’t forget the 10 outfield assists — most of any right fielder in baseball. Outfield assists aren’t the greatest determiner of a player’s value in the field, but teams learned pretty quickly to not run on Bellinger’s arm.
I always thought he’d also be a more than capable center fielder. When the Dodgers signed A.J. Pollock, ideas that Bellinger would be a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder went by the wayside. And while he’s logged just 36 innings (+1 DRS) in center this season, he had nearly 500 out there and played at a +6 DRS clip. And if that’s not enough to convince you of his capability, check this out from Statcast.
It’s not out of the realm of reality to say that Bellinger could be baseball’s best defensive player. Seeing as first base and right field aren’t the most important, being a plus center fielder definitely has more worth. He’s versatile and plays three positions at a plus-or-better level.
This is just another notch in the belt of his MVP case.