Welcome to part six of the annual Dodgers Nation player grades and season reviews, this time for the 2022 season. Up next in the series is a former Rookie of the Year, former MVP, and now former Dodger: Cody Bellinger. Check out Trea Turner in part one, Freddie Freeman in part two, Mookie Betts in part three, Gavin Lux in part four, and Will Smith in part five.
It’s part six of our season review series, and it’s our first bad grade of the bunch. The nicest thing we can say about Cody Bellinger’s 2022 season is that it was better than his 2021 season. He played a good defensive center field and was less below-league-average at the plate than he had been the year before.
Let’s face it, it was an excruciatingly disappointing season for Bellinger, so much so that the Dodgers non-tendered the former future Hall of Famer and let him walk away to the Cubs. At age 27, Bellinger will try to recapture the form that had him in the conversation for best player in baseball just three years ago.
So, as much as it might hurt, let’s dig into Belli’s 2022 season.
Fan Vote Results
On Twitter, you can only put four options in any given poll, which makes it challenging because there are five grades even if we don’t get into pluses and minuses. In hindsight, maybe we should have left off the A option for Bellinger.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) November 15, 2022
Of the 2,162 fans who voted, only 1.7% gave Bellinger an A, proving the old adage that in any given group of 2,162 people, there will always be 37 of them who are physically incapable of saying anything even remotely negative about another person. Just 6.3% gave Belli a B, which means the other 92% graded him poorly. The breakdown was 54.1% for C and 37.8% for F, but you kind of get the feeling most of those people would have settled in the middle at D if it had been an option.
Dodgers Nation Take
Bottom line, Bellinger had a D season. If you’re grading him on the curve of comparing him to himself from three years ago, it was an F. His WAR was 1.2, and the little key on Baseball-Reference helpfully reminds you that anything below 2.0 isn’t good enough to be a starter, but Bellinger got 550 plate appearances and started 135 games in center field.
Even on defense, Bellinger was a good center-fielder but not as good as he’s been in the past. According to StatCast, his Outs Above Average, Outfielder Jump, and Arm Strength were all down his peak defensive years of 2019 and 2020.
In the end, Cody’s struggles cost him his job in Los Angeles. L.A. non-tendered him in November, and while they were interested in bringing him back on a smaller deal, the free-agent market took over and he ended up getting nearly as much from Chicago as he would have gotten in arbitration.
For the Dodgers, “what’s next” is “another center-fielder,” although we’re not yet sure who that will be. As for Bellinger, he’ll try to rebuild his value in his one year in Chicago, maybe even with a midseason trade if he’s playing well and the Cubs aren’t. His goal is to hit free agency again next year, but this time much closer to the superstar he was just a few years ago.
We’re not sure if it’s going to happen, but we’re rooting for him except when he plays Los Angeles, like he will on April 14-16 at Dodger Stadium.
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