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Sunday, May 13, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CRISIS POINT: CODY BELLINGER

When you slam 38 home runs as a rookie on a championship contending team at the ripe old age of 21 like Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger did in 2017, let's just say expectations were very high here as 2018 fantasy baseball drafts got underway.  That made complete sense when you looked at the sky-high power that was already part of the statistical equation and the fact Bellinger was still four years away from his prime.  As a result, Bellinger became a second round pick in many leagues this spring and so visions of 45 home runs with 100 RBI/runs were dancing in his owners' heads despite some batting average concerns (just .267 as a rookie).  Well if you were to fast forward to present day, the output so far on Bellinger has fallen quite a bit below those lofty expectations to say the least.  As he heads into Friday's action, Bellinger was sitting on the following numbers:

.271
4 HR
17 RBI
23 R
1 SB
22.6 K/9
8.4 BB/9
.330 BABIP

What jumps right out is the fact that Bellinger has just four home runs this season which is way past the per game average he had in that category a year ago.  Now surely opposing pitchers are being much more careful when dealing with Bellinger this season but this is still too big a jump down to simply look past.  Some clarity is brought to the forefront though when we see that Bellinger's ground ball rate has gone up compared to last season (42.1 to 35.2), while at the same time, his fly ball rate has dipped sharply (47.1 in 2017 down to 40.2 this year).  After hearing all offseason how he needed to change his swing a bit to cut down on all the K's, Bellinger likely altered his approach enough to bring forth these changes which has contributed to the drop in home runs.  

In addition to the home run drop, Bellinger's average has not really gotten any better as his .271 mark is just slightly better than his .267 mark as a rookie.  While Bellinger has successfully beaten down the strikeouts some (K/9 of 22.6 compared to last season's 26.6), his walk rate has gotten worse from that same span which neutralizes the lessening in the K's.  Then when you add in a lucky .330 BABIP, Bellinger's average should actually be worse to go with the drop in power.

So when you break it all down, Cody Bellinger is enduring a typical sophomore slump that takes a bit out of most who hit the ground running as rookies.  Opposing pitchers have clearly adjusted to Bellinger this time around and so it is up to him to adjust back.  A buy low opportunity is presenting itself which I would take advantage of since Bellinger's power is too good to keep down for long but it is also true he is struggling across the board right now which is putting his second round price tag in trouble in terms of earning back value.  

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