Chicago Cubs News: Cody Bellinger with a promising start to the season
Hearing that the Chicago Cubs signed the former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP in the offseason was grounds for praise for Jed Hoyer and Company– except you had to consider the recent numbers that Cody Bellinger had produced.
Bellinger’s first three seasons in the Bigs alone built quite the resume for the former Dodger. Between a rookie season that put up a 138 wRC+ that led all NL rookies by over 30 and an MVP season that earned him his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, he slashed .277/.367/.560 with a 139 wRC+ across his first three years with LA. But, as injuries took a toll on his mechanics, regression is an understatement on his downfall with the Dodgers, averaging just an 80 wRC+ from 2020-2022, a time frame that included the lowest ISO (.137) of his career in 2021.
Was a change of scenery what Bellinger needed? After just a few weeks with the Cubs, signs could be pointing toward yes.
In 60 plate appearances so far this season, Bellinger’s slashing .245/.317/.453 with a 102 wRC+, but this includes the Opening Series against the Brewers where he went 0-11 across three games. Since the cold start, Bellinger has gone .310/.375/.571 with a 149 wRC+ since April 4th. This stretch included matchups against two of last season’s playoff teams– including a road trip to his roots in LA.
As it stands now, Bellinger is currently on a six-game hit streak, dating back to game one against the Mariners. In this six-game stretch, he’s gone 8-23 .348/.385/.696 with a 177 wRC+, striking out at a 15.4% rate in this span.
Hopes for the Bellinger resurgence coincide with what the Cubs knew they’d be getting upon signing the one-year, $17.5M contract: Defense. Bellinger already drastically improved the team upon his signing as someone who ranked in the top 10 of all center fielders in Outs Above Average (7) in 2022 when the Cubs overall had a -6 OAA in center last season– the highest individual OAA (2) came from Michael Hermosillo’s 172 innings in center.
Of course, it’s still early in the season, but even as the Cubs continue to defy the pre-season expectations while winning three consecutive series as of late– including a series win against the Dodgers in LA and a potential fourth series victory against the Reds had it not been for rain– Bellinger’s ability to go back to even just a shade of his former self will continue to prove crucial down the stretch.