Cody Bellinger’s jump to an elite defensive outfielder deserves more attention

It’s easy to overlook it, but Cody Bellinger has clearly become an elite defensive outfielder.

With a Rookie of the Year (2017), NLCS MVP (2018) and league MVP (2019) already on his resume, Cody Bellinger has accomplished a lot in his young career. As a fourth-round pick in 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers got a draft steal.

Bellinger was drafted as a first baseman, and that’s where he played the most in 2017 (93 games-83 starts) and 2018 (110 games-85 starts). But he also spent time in the outfield, mostly left (2017) and center field (2018) respectively.

What’s changed for Cody Bellinger?

Bellinger shifted primarily to the outfield in 2019, with 136 games and 123 starts in right and 25 games (21 starts) in center. He still saw some time at first base (36 games-28 starts), but Bellinger is clearly an outfielder now. All he did was win a Gold Glove last year, with 23 Defensive Runs Saved in the outfield.

After a play on Thursday, Daniel Starkand of Dodger Blue cited how great Bellinger has been defensively (mostly in center field this year).

Bellinger started this season slowly at the plate, with a .175/.245/.320 slash-line (.173 BABIP) through his first 24 games (106 plate appearances). But over eight games since (entering Friday), he is slashing .400/.471/.900 (1.371 OPS, .400 BABIP) with four home runs, seven RBI and three doubles over 34 plate appearances. Prior to an 0-3 against the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 of Thursday’s doubleheader, he had a seven-game hitting streak going.

Bellinger will always garner the most attention and notoriety for what he does offensively, and with the uniqueness of this 60-game season in mind, he has found a stride and started to hit to his ability. Anything notably good he does defensively will be considered icing on the cake for most people. But he has quite simply (and quickly) become an elite defensive outfielder, with a nod to the Dodgers recognizing he was more than a first baseman who could play some outfield. Sometimes the icing is the best part of the cake.

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