Cody Bellinger

From BR Bullpen


Cody James Bellinger

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

The son of major leaguer Clay Bellinger, first baseman Cody Bellinger was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2013 amateur draft. He signed for a $700,000 bonus and made his pro debut with the AZL Dodgers on June 20th. He hit .210 in 47 games with a homer and 30 RBI. In 2014, he split his time between the AZL Dodgers and Ogden Raptors, hitting a combined .312/.352/.474 in 51 games. He followed that in 2015 with an outstanding performance with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League. At only 19, he played 128 games and hit .264 with 33 doubles and 30 homers, scoring 97 runs and driving in 103. He continued his progression in 2016, playing mainly in Double A with the Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League. In 114 games, he hit .263/.359/.484 with 23 homers and 65 RBI while still being much younger than the average player in the circuit. He also had a brief taste of Triple A with the Oklahoma City Dodgers and was not at all intimidated, going 6 for 11 with 3 homers.

Having established himself as one of the Dodgers' top prospects, Cody was called up to The Show on April 25, 2017, and immediately inserted in the starting lineup in left field. Batting eighth against the San Francisco Giants, he went 1 for 3 with a walk in his debut. Injuries to Joc Pederson and Franklin Gutierrez were behind his being called up ahead of schedule; he was batting .343 with 5 home runs, 4 doubles and 7 RBI in 18 games for Oklahoma City at the time. He hit his first two major league homers in the same game April 29th, his first coming off Zach Eflin in the 7th and the second as part of three consecutive long balls off Hector Neris in the 9th, part of a four-run inning that gave Los Angeles a 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. On May 28th, he connected for his 10th homer since his call-up in a 9-4 win over the Chicago Cubs. In doing so, he became the fastest player in Dodgers history to reach double figures in homers for his career, doing so in his 31st big league game. He was leading the team in home runs at that point despite his belated start and he was named the National League Rookie of the Month for May as a result. On June 2nd, he homered in the 12th inning off Neftali Feliz of the Milwaukee Brewers for the margin in a 2-1 win, ending a game in which the Dodgers set a team record with 26 strikeouts and both teams combined for a National League record 42. As the 12th homer of his career, he now had the same number as his father, who had taken 183 major league games to reach the mark. With a pair of homers on June 19th, he reached a total of 21 for the year, making him the fastest player in major league history to the mark, in 51 games. Even with his belated start to the season, he was now leading the NL in homers. The previous holders of the mark for the most homers in their first 51 games were Wally Berger and Gary Sanchez with 20, Sánchez having tied the mark just the previous year. On June 25th, his sixth two-homer game of the season gave him 24 long balls for the year and put him one multi-homer game behind the rookie record set by Mark McGwire in 1987. The two long balls came in a 12-6 win over the Rockies - the Dodgers' 10th straight win - and his power hitting was the main reason they were the hottest team in the league at that point. He repeated as Rookie of the Month in June, having batted .286 with 13 homers and 27 RBI during the month. The 13 homers set a National league mark for most homers in a month by a rookie, one that would be beaten two years later by Aristides Aquino.

Not surprisingly, Bellinger was named to the All-Star team. After participating in the 2017 All-Star Game and Home Run Derby, he became the first rookie in Dodgers history to hit for the cycle in a 7-1 win over the Miami Marlins on July 15th. He singled in the 1st, hit a two-run homer in the 3rd, a double good for another run in the 4th and completed the feat with his second career triple off Nick Wittgren in the 7th. On August 19th, he turned his ankle while making a catch in right field at Comerica Park in a game against the Detroit Tigers and had to miss a few games before being placed on the disabled list on August 22nd. He returned August 30th and, by connecting for long balls on September 2-3, he pushed his home run total to 36, breaking the Dodgers rookie record set by Mike Piazza in 1993. On September 22nd, his 39th homer made him the sole holder of the National League rookie record, which had been shared by Wally Berger and Frank Robinson. He finished the year at .276 in 132 games, with 39 homers and 97 RBI. In the postseason, he homered once in each round in which the Dodgers played, including hitting .318 with a pair of doubles in the win over the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. In the World Series, he struck out 17 times while walking just once, going 4 for 28 as the Houston Astros' pitchers attacked him relentlessly with breaking balls and he was unable to adjust. After the season, he was voted the unanimous winner of the NL Rookie of the Year.

He started the 2018 season well, cutting down his strikeouts, raising his batting average and smoking a lot of extra-base hits even if his home run percentage was down a bit in April. On April 29th, he was benched in the middle of a game against the San Francisco Giants by manager Dave Roberts for lack of hustle. What Roberts had not liked was that he had to settle for a double on a ball hit to the wall after taking his time out of the batter's box on what should have been, in Dave's opinion, an easy triple; he then aggravated his case by being doubled off the bag on a line drive and, an inning later, was replaced at first base by Max Muncy. He did not miss much action, as he played 162 games that season, most in the NL. He did sit out one game as the Dodgers played a total of 163 games, the result of needing a one-game playoff against the Colorado Rockies to determine the winner of the division title, a game the Dodgers won. He hit .260 with 25 homers and 76 RBI while splitting his time mainly between first base and center field. In the postseason he was shut down, going 0 for 11, in the Dodgers' win over the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, but then was named the MVP of the NLCS as he had 5 hits, 3 runs scored, a homer and 4 RBI in L.A.'s defeat of the Milwaukee Brewers in a tightly-fought seven-game series. In his return to the World Series he again struggled, going 1 for 16, as the Dodgers went down in five games against the Boston Red Sox.

On March 30, 2019, he had one of the best games of his career in an 18-5 beatdown of the Arizona Diamondbacks, as he went 4 for 6 with 2 homers and 6 RBI. One of the long balls came against John Ryan Murphy, a position player pitching mop-up relief. It was part of a great start to his season, as he hit 5 home runs and had 12 RBI in his first 6 games. His slugging ways continued as the month went on, as on April 26th, he homered and singled in a 6-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. That gave him 13 homers and 88 total bases, the latter figure a new record for March and April. Former teammate Chase Utley had set the previous record, with 85 total bases in March and April of 2008. He also broke Matt Kemp's team record for most home runs during the period and his 33 RBI were the second most by a Dodgers player in 28 games, only trailing the 37 collected by Ron Cey in 1977. He was, at that point, leading the majors in hits, runs scored, batting average and slugging percentage and was tied with Christian Yelich for the home run lead. He hit his 14th homer on April 28th in another win, this one 7-6 over the Pittsburgh Pirates, tying the record for most before May 1st, with Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Yelich also having reached that total. Not surprisingly, he was named the National League Player of the Month for April, his first time winning the honor. He kept up the production in May and, on May 27th, he achieved another amazing feat when, in a 9-5 win over the New York Mets, he not only hit his 19th homer of the season, but also threw out two baserunners from the outfield, Michael Conforto at home in the 1st and Carlos Gomez at third base to complete a double play in the 8th in a play worthy of highlight reels. He was named a starter in the 2019 All-Star Game, then on July 3rd had a two-homer game including a walk-off blast off Yoan Lopez in the 10th inning to lead the Dodgers to a 5-4 win over the Diamondbacks. It was the fifth straight walk-off win by the Dodgers at home (they had played 7 road games in the interim) and Bellinger's stat line showed a .345 average, 29 homers and 70 RBI with half of the season still to play!

On August 2, 2019, Cody took San Diego's Eric Lauer deep for his 100th career home run. He became the fastest Dodger in history to reach 100 bombs, doing so in his 401st game, surpassing Hall of Famer Mike Piazza in the Dodger record books once more (Piazza having reached 100 in 422 games). Two weeks later, on August 15th, he became the youngest Dodger in history to reach the 40 home run plateau. He finished the season with new career bests in batting average (.305), home runs (47) and runs batted in (115), as well as leading National League right fielders in defensive runs saved with 19. Bellinger was rewarded for his spectacular season with the 2019 National League Most Valuable Player Award at season's end, beating out the Brewers' Christian Yelich. He also became the 5th Dodger in history to win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in the same season. He was eligible for salary arbitration after the season but, on January 10, 2020 he reached a deal with the Dodgers on a one-year contract worth $11.5 million, thus avoiding a hearing. It was the largest deal signed by a player eligible for arbitration for the first time, eclipsing that signed by Kris Bryant two years earlier, which had been for $10.85 million.

His 2020 season was not as statistically spectacular as his MVP year had been, but it was even more satisfying as he ended up winning a World Series ring. The season was shortened by the Coronavirus pandemic, and he was limited to 56 games as a result, during which he hit .239 with 12 homers and 30 RBIs. He moved from right field to center field, to accommodate the newly-acquired Mookie Betts, who took over as the Gold Glove-winning RF for the Dodgers, who posted the best record in baseball during the regular season. He hit .286 and .333 in the first two rounds of the postseason as the Dodgers cruised, winning all five games. In the more disputed NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, he fell to .200, but with a triple and two homers. One of these was hit in Game 7, and in celebrating the feat, he dislocated his shoulder while performing a high-five with teammate Kiké Hernandez; this aggravated an earlier injury he had suffered while diving for balls in center field. While he was able to play all six games of the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, the injury affected him clearly as he was just 3-for 22 with a homer. Still, the Dodgers won their first title since 1988 and on November 17th, he underwent surgery to repair the damage. He was expected to be ready for spring training, however.

He was indeed fully recovered for the start of the 2021 season, but on Opening day, April 1st, teammate Justin Turner cost him a homer in a game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Cody hit a ball that bounced in and out of LF Raimel Tapia's glove and landed in the stands, but Turner, who was on first base, was running on the play and thinking the ball had been caught, turned around and sprinted back to first to avoid being doubled off. Bellinger crossed his path and was called out for passing a baserunner, his homer being downgraded to a single, although he still was credited with an RBI as Turner was allowed to circle the bases after the confusion was cleared up. He hit just .165 in 95 games that year as he seemed to be in a year-long slump, with his OPS+ falling to a dismal 44. Yet, because the Dodgers had a great season, it was largely ignored as he remained the team's most-used centerfielder. He still started the Wild Card Game against the St. Louis Cardinals and went 1 for 2 with 2 walks and 2 stolen bases. In fact he hit decently for the rest of the postseason, batting .267 with a double and 3 RBIs as the Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants, who had beaten them out of a division title by one game, in the Division Series, and then .412 with 1 homer and 4 RBIs in their loss to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. The Dodgers were hoping for a bounce-back season from Cody in 2022 and while he did improve on the previous, he still hit only .210 with 150 strikeouts in 144 games. The main improvement was in slugging, as he hit 27 double sand 19 homers and improved his OPS+ to 78. This was still well below average, but once again, the team as a whole was so good that his poor performance seemed to have little effect. Also working in his favor was that his defensive play continued to be strong, even if he struggled at the plate. The Dodgers suffered an early postseason exit that year, being upset by the San Diego Padres in the Division Series, and he was just 1 for 7 with 4 strikeouts in the three games in which he appeared.

Cody became a free agent after the 2022 season, and the Dodgers were not really interested in re-signing him, given he was coming off two consecutive poor seasons, and did not extend him a qualifying offer. It was the Chicago Cubs who decided to take a flier on him, but reduced their risk by only guaranteeing him a one-year contract, even if it was for a good salary at $17.5 million; they also added in an option clause that would allow them to add a second year to the deal if he were to bounce back. The signing was announced on December 6th. Bounce back he did in 2023, helping to keep the Cubs in the postseason race and winning the National League Player of the Month Award in July. That month, he hit .400 and slug .690 while banging 8 homers and collecting 24 RBIs. He finished the year at .307 in 130 games, with 26 homers, 95 runs and 97 RBIs, for an OPS+ of 133. He was named the winner of the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Following the season, he declined his mutual option for another season with the Cubs, deciding instead to test the free agent waters again now that he had reestablished his value. It was expected that the Cubs would still extend him a qualifying offer. He tested the free agent waters, but on February 25, 2024, it was reported that he had agreed tor eturn to the Cubs on a three-year deal worth $80 million, with various opt-out clauses if he wanted to be a free agent again.

In addition to his father, Cody's brother, Cole, was drafted out of high school by the San Diego Padres in the 15th round of the 2017 amateur draft.

Notable Achievements[edit]

NL Rookie of the Year
2016 2017 2018
Corey Seager Cody Bellinger Ronald Acuna
2018 2019 2020
Christian Yelich Cody Bellinger Freddie Freeman

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jordan Bastian: "Former MVP Bellinger agrees to deal with Cubs",, December 6, 2022. [1]
  • Jordan Bastian: "Bellinger eyes rebound in '23: 'It's definitely a big year'",, December 20, 2022. [2]
  • Jordan Bastian: "Bellinger already in swing of things at camp: Cubs, slugger working on retooling 2019 NL MVP's approach at the plate",, February 23, 2023. [3]
  • Jordan Bastian: "Bellinger set to test market after declining mutual option",, November 3, 2023. [4]
  • Jordan Bastian: "Bellinger returning to Cubs on three-year deal",, February 25, 2024. [5]
  • Ken Gurnick: "Dodgers promote top prospect Bellinger",, April 26, 2017. [6]
  • Ken Gurnick: "Bellinger bulks up for sophomore season: NL Rookie of the Year gains 15 pounds as he hopes to avoid letdown",, January 18, 2018. [7]
  • Jack Harris (Los Angeles Times): "Dodgers couldn't make Cody Bellinger a star again. 'Sometimes you just don't have any answers'", Yahoo! News, April 14, 2023. [8]
  • Gabe Lacques: "How high can Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger fly? We're about to find out", USA Today Sports, June 20, 2017. [9]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Dodgers' Cody Bellinger edges out Brewers' Christian Yelich for NL MVP Award", USA Today, November 14, 2019. [10]
  • Brian Murphy: "Hendriks, Bellinger win Comeback Player of the Year Awards",, November 28, 2023. [11]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Cody Bellinger's fast start boosts Dodgers, heartens dad", USA Today Sports, June 13, 2017. [12]
  • Bob Nightengale; "Cody Bellinger, having the greatest season in Dodgers history, wants World Series rings like his dad", USA Today, June 4, 2019. [13]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Dodgers dominating since Cody Bellinger's arrival to the bigs", USA Today Sports, July 12, 2017. [14]
  • Mike Petriello: "Best season ever? Bellinger could do it: Dodgers slugger challenging record for highest WAR in a season",, May 30, 2019. [15]
  • Joe Posnanski: "Highs, lows of Springer, Bellinger tell Series tale: Astros star shakes off slump, becomes Classic MVP; LA slugger breaks K record",, November 2, 2017. [16]
  • Joe Trezza: "Bellinger's turnaround results in NLCS MVP honor",, October 21, 2018. [17]

Biographical Information[edit]