Cody Bellinger – Sooner or later?
The general feeling is that Cody Bellinger is blocked and won’t see much major league action in 2017. Not everyone agreed with this.
Is he really blocked?
The Dodger top prospect plays 1st base and the outfield. Barring injury Adrian Gonzalez has a firm grip on 1st base and given he’s never hit the DL, that grip is solid.
Not so solid is the grip on left field by Andre Ethier / Andrew Toles/ Franklyn Gutierrez / Trayce Thompson / SVS.
Andre Ethier is having a great spring and looks completely healthy following a year in which he missed 99% of it due to fouling a ball off his shin in 2016 spring training and breaking stuff. In what was supposed to be a competition between Andre and Andrew, at the moment, Andre is kicking Toles butt.
If Andre was to win the job (and I suspect he will) what are his prospects? Going back to 2010 – 2016 we can do a quick Baseball Reference Play Index and look for any LF with at least 400 PA with at least an OPS+ of 100 who was 35 or older. We find five players who have done this. Soriano three times, and Raul Ibanez twice. The best they could do was an OPS+ of 123.
It is very possible that Andre Ethier will join this leaderboard at the end of 2017, but it also just as likely that he doesn’t. In 2014, Andre was fighting injuries and posted a mere OPS+ of 97. He followed that with a very healthy and productive 2015. Two of the last three years Andre has not been healthy.
I would not be betting on Andre seeing 400 plate appearances in 2017 with an OPS+ > 100.
Player HR OPS+ PA Year Age BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Alfonso Soriano 34 114 626 2013 37 .255 .302 .489 .791 *7D/H Alfonso Soriano 32 118 615 2012 36 .262 .322 .499 .821 *7/DH Raul Ibanez 29 123 496 2013 41 .242 .306 .487 .793 *7D/H9 Alfonso Soriano 26 104 508 2011 35 .244 .289 .469 .759 *7/HD Marlon Byrd 23 100 544 2015 37 .247 .290 .453 .743 *79/H8D Matt Holliday 20 107 426 2016 36 .246 .322 .461 .782 *7H3/D Raul Ibanez 19 103 425 2012 40 .240 .308 .453 .761 *7HD9 Carlos Lee 18 117 653 2011 35 .275 .342 .446 .788 *7*3/DH Raul Ibanez 16 111 636 2010 38 .275 .349 .444 .793 *7/HD3
Andrew Toles is supposed to be next up on the depth chart. Toles shocked the baseball world last year by flying up the minor league ladder after taking the 2015 season off. He was so good that eventually Dave Roberts was forced to use him in the postseason in LF instead of Howie Kendrick. Andrew Toles could eventually find his way into being the LAD starting left fielder against RHP. As much as I enjoyed Toles last year I do think he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock is Andre Ethier’s contract. If healthy Andre is going to be the starting LF even if Toles is his equal because they can only carry one of Andre or Andrew. The hard place is Cody Bellinger. Toles might be an adequate left fielder, Cody Bellinger could be a star. He might be able to hold off Cody for a few months, but I’m not sure he could do it for the whole season.
The other three players on the LF depth are all right handed hitters who would play against LHP.
This is my guess for the 2017 season. Andre Ethier will win the job to start the year but injuries will get in the way of him being productive and eventually he’ll hit the DL. Toles will get the call-up but between Toles being meh, and Bellinger hammering in AAA, the Dodgers eventually give Bellinger the call and he takes the LF job and holds it the rest of summer and 2018 to boot.
For some reason as I watched the Mariner / Dodger game today, a vision flashed before my eyes, and that vision was Andrew Toles playing for the Mariners.