Cody Bellinger was one of the hottest fantasy commodities in the 2018 draft season. Coming off of a historic rookie season, in which he hit 39 home runs, with 10 stolen bases in 139 games, Bellinger’s NFBC ADP ended the draft season at 26th overall. That ADP was made up of a minimum pick of 7th overall and a maximum pick of 46th overall. As of writing this post, Bellinger currently ranks 83rd overall on the ESPN Fantasy Baseball Player Rater.
Despite a somewhat disappointing season from the now 23-year-old, I’m advising all fantasy baseball owners to double down on Bellinger for the 2019 fantasy baseball season. You’d need to be in a league with the biggest Dodger’s fan in the world to see Bellinger selected at 7th overall again. That said, I wouldn’t balk at spending a second round pick in a 15-team mixed league on Bellinger next draft season. Only time will tell if that price even needs to be paid.
Not only has Bellinger displayed a skill level that could propel him towards late-first round production, but as mentioned previously, he’s still only 23-years-old. Bellinger is a growth stock and because he did not meet expectations this season, the demand for his services could be slightly reduced next season.
Being at least a couple of months away from drafts starting (make sure to sign up for at least a couple of Draft Champion Leagues!) now is a good time to review what has led to Bellinger’s slightly reduced production in 2018.
Statcast: Then & Now
In 2017 Bellinger’s Brls/PA% was 7.5% (30th among hitters with at least 150 batted ball events). This season that figure has fallen to 5.8% (102nd among hitters with at least 150 batted ball events). Furthering that point, in 2017 Bellinger hit 45.7% of his batted balls over 95 MPH. This season Bellinger’s percentage of 95+ MPH batted balls has fallen over 8% to 37.3%.
It goes without saying that this is far from ideal, especially for those projecting over 40 home runs this draft season. But it’s not all sour apples and rain clouds in Bellinger’s 2018 batting profile.
Bellinger’s above-average batting eye and power ability were the two biggest factors driving my excitement entering the 2018 season. Unfortunately, the power has dipped this season, with Bellinger’s ISO falling from .315 in 2017 to .207 this season. The league average ISO so far in 2018 is .162 by the way. Bellinger’s batting eye has remained above average at 0.46 BB/K. His strikeout rate is falling closer and closer towards league average as well. Perhaps the drop in swinging and missing (13.2% in 2017 | 12.3% in 2018) has also led to a somewhat reduced power stroke. Even if that is the case, it doesn’t necessarily mean Bellinger can’t regain his power stroke with the newfound contact ability in future seasons.
At the end of the day, Bellinger is the type of player who continues to help a fantasy baseball team even in a down year. Just like in the stock market, certain companies have down years for various reasons. Think of Bellinger as a nice dividend stock which had a bad earnings season but has upward momentum in the coming years. With just over a month remaining in the season, Bellinger has reached the 20 home run mark, has double-digit stolen bases and has been helpful in both the RBI and runs category. Bellinger has continued to show underlying skill support for both power and speed. The stars did not necessarily align this season, but the path to improved production in 2019 is clear.