Will Spring Training Invitee Cody Bellinger Have a Spot in 2017?

The two best prospects as position players that the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system produced over the past several seasons, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson, were brought along slowly. Pederson, who will turn 25 three weeks into the 2017 season which will be his third full year in the majors, played full seasons in A+ Ball, AA Ball and Triple-A before his 2014 late season call-up. Corey Seager, the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year and whose birthday is the same week as Pederson’s, turning 23, spent almost two full years playing Rookie league and low-A ball before the equivalent of a full season at A+, then parts of two season in AA, and just about a full year in Triple-A before his 2015 late

season call up. This is a pattern that has worked well for these two, and for the Dodgers. But will they break the pattern, and soon?

The next position player in line for regular duty in the majors, and potential stardom, is 21-year-old first baseman Cody Bellinger. While Bellinger has spent some time in the Rookie league and has had full seasons since in A+ and Double-A, his Triple-A experience consists of three games and 12 late season 2016 at bats. But, he has been extended a 2017 Major League Camp invite for Spring Training, and are the Dodgers actually thinking of having him skip Triple-A and stick with the Dodgers in 2017? The fact that in those 12 Triple-A at bats he hit three home runs, drove in six and batted .545. may have something to do with that thinking, as well as the following: A left-hand hitting first baseman and the heir-apparent to Adrian Gonzalez, likely after two more seasons when Gonzalez’ contract is up, Bellinger has now also spent some time learning the outfield, and in 2015 played in center field in 31 games, and another 13 last season, plus 22 more in left or right. And, he has already impressed a lot of people last spring training.

While the Dodgers’ outfield is unsettled except for center field where Peterson is entrenched, it is loaded with talent now from both sides of the plate after the signing this past week of Franklin Gutierrez to go along with Trayce Thompson (assuming he is healthy), Kike Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke, Rob Segedin and Yasiel Puig from the right side of the plate, and Andrew Toles and Andre Ethier from the left. But looking closer, only the latter two are left hand hitters like Bellinger, and Ethier is now 34 and is coming off a season lost to a broken leg, and while Toles played exceptionally well for the Dodgers over the season’s last 12 weeks, the fact is that after some early success as a Tampa Bay prospect, he had unannounced problems that led to his release and his sitting out the entire 2015 season, during which time he worked in a supermarket. Signed by the Dodgers a year ago, he moved quickly through the farm season, reaching the majors with the team

by August. His on-field performance the rest of the season was sterling, but can he repeat that and are there other issues that could arise? That all said, there could be playing time for another left-hand hitting outfielder on the Dodgers’ major league roster.

But there is a downside to all this. While Bellinger has shown the same type of home run power and run production as Seager and Pederson did in the minors (Minor League Home Runs and RBI: Seager 62 and 278, Pederson 84 and 271, and Bellinger 60 and 238 in around 400 less at bats than the other two), he has struck out at a higher rate and his overall minor league batting average, .267, is considerably lower than what Pederson, .303, and Seager, .307, achieved in the minors.

So, a big issue to watch in spring training is whether or not the 21-year-old Bellinger can jump from Double-A to the majors and get playing time in the already crowded Dodgers’ outfield?

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