Cubs News: Cody Bellinger is proving it
Michael McLoone - USA Today Sports

Cubs News: Cody Bellinger is proving it

by - Staff Writer -

One of the biggest reasons that the Cubs are not fully dead in the water as they head into the All-Star break has been the resurgence of Cody Bellinger.

Everybody knows the story of Cody Bellinger. He broke into the MLB in 2017 and won Rookie of the Year, followed by winning the NL MVP in 2019 and playing a huge part in the Dodgers' 2020 World Series victory. Then the other well-documented part of Bellinger’s story is the fall off after the quick ascension, as he was essentially the league’s worst hitter for the remainder of his career in Los Angeles. It is not identical, but the scenario is fairly reminiscent Cubs legend Kris Bryant.

The Dodgers decided it was time for Bellinger to get some fresh scenery and designated him for assignment— similar to the way the Cubs approached Kyle Schwarber’s arbitration years ending — and the rebuilding Cubs bit on the bait. Bellinger decided he only wanted to sign a one-year contract that would allow him a chance to prove himself once again as a valuable big-league player and earn him an opportunity to sign a larger, more wealthy contract. Those around the league have called the contact a prove-it deal, and prove it he has done in the first half of the season.

As it sits in the All-Star break, Bellinger is hitting .298 with 9 homers, 44 runs scored, 29 RBI, 11 stolen bases, an OPS of .846, and he has accumulated a WAR of 2.1 — certainly a strong first half for the two-time All-Star.

Bellinger had a slow start to the season, but a 5-hit game on April 17th lifted his season batting average up over .300, where it stayed until May 8th when a slump struck Bellinger. Bellinger was also flashing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field for the first two months of the season. Some injuries and some struggles saw Bellinger miss a month of action and struggle upon his return in Mid-June.

However, London seemed to snap the lefty out of his slump. Bellinger’s .252 average raised up to .303 over the next 13 games, where Bellinger sported the best hitting streak of his career.

Bellinger also had not homered since April and had only driven in four runs in May and June, and Belli knocked it out of the park in back-to-back games this week and has driven in seven runs in nine games in July.

Bellinger has played mostly first base since his return from injury, which has given the Cubs a much-needed boost at the 1B position. The Cubs are 29th in the MLB in production at first base and are top five in production in centerfield. The Cubs are near .500 in the games that Bellinger has appeared in, and he is playing his best baseball over the last two weeks heading into the All-Star break.

There certainly are questions surrounding Bellinger’s future with the Cubs or elsewhere. Many expect Bellinger to move on after this season and sign a bigger deal somewhere. While he provides Gold Glove caliber defense in center field, the Cubs view prospects in high regard to potentially play centerfield — in fact, five of their top twelve prospects are outfielders: Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kevin Alcantara, Brennen Davis, Alexander Canario, and Owen Cassie.

So if the Cubs decided to extend Bellinger, perhaps the long-term solution would be at first base — because the collection of Eric Hosmer, Trey Mancini, Jared Young and Matt Mervis have been underwhelming at best, and the future of the position is certainly in question for Hoyer and company.

The other wrinkle, Bellinger being on a one-year deal and performing well, mixed with the fact the Cubs are still seven games out of the division, begs the question of will the Cubs be selling at the trade deadline — and would that mean Bellinger is a prime candidate for the Cubs to move.

If the Cubs don’t intend on keeping Bellinger in Chicago beyond this season — and if the next few weeks show them that they will not be contending this season — why not shop Bellinger and maximize your return on a player who was not a part of your future anyway?

But then again, if Bellinger keeps playing the way he is, the Cubs may have no choice but to keep him in town and add more to the roster for the stretch run.

Will Bellinger be on the team in August? What about next April? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: he is proving it.

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