Toronto could be best touchdown spot for Cody Bellinger


Cody Bellinger has not been at his best over the last few seasons, but Toronto could be the perfect destination to rediscover his MVP-level form. (Getty Images)

Cody Bellinger has not been at his finest over the previous couple of seasons, however Toronto may very well be the right vacation spot to rediscover his MVP-level type. (Getty Pictures)

As quickly because the Toronto Blue Jays traded away Teoscar Hernández, they immediately grew to become huge gamers within the free agent outfield market.

This 12 months’s offseason crop of outfield expertise isn’t spectacular, however that hasn’t stopped the stories linking Toronto to a number of high gamers. Brandon Nimmo and Andrew Benintendi are viable choices. Michael Brantley seems to be good as a left-handed platoon hitter, too. Now, although, there’s a wildcard within the combine: Cody Bellinger.

The 27-year-old former MVP was lately non-tendered by the Los Angeles Dodgers and has reportedly obtained curiosity from the Jays. A number of groups will inquire about Bellinger, who’s struggled mightily the final two seasons however is a authentic bounce-back candidate.

Right here’s a deep dive on why the left-handed hitting Bellinger would make sense for the Blue Jays in 2023.

Wage

Money is the best a part of this equation. Bellinger is rumoured to be searching for a one-year contract, probably across the $10-million to $15-million mark. With Hernández’s departure releasing up payroll, the Blue Jays shouldn’t have any drawback pursuing Bellinger at that worth.

There are apparent dangers related to a transfer for Bellinger, who may very well be an entire offensive dud in 2023, however the outfielder carries such upside that he’s value a one-year gamble. Suppose again to the Marcus Semien deal forward of the 2021 season. The shortstop was coming off a bumpy stretch and ultimately signed a one-year, $18-million take care of Toronto that wound up being an enormous win for each events.

Bellinger’s match within the Blue Jays lineup

Effectively, he was an 8.6-WAR NL MVP in 2019 however has since withered into one of many worst hitters in baseball (.193 common in his final 900 regular-season plate appearances). Bellinger did all of it in 2019 –a slugging share over .600, a superb stroll charge and strikeout charge – but when that man is actually gone, what stays?

Regardless of Bellinger’s struggles – notably with getting beneath baseballs – the Arizona native has narrowly maintained an above-average exit velocity over the past two seasons. His barrel charge and hard-hit share have additionally stayed constructive as his contact and swing-and-miss numbers have plummeted.

Of observe, Bellinger carried out higher in 2022 with runners in scoring place (RISP). His .736 OPS was extra tolerable, as was his .459 slugging with RISP, which was greater than what Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.425), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.419) and Matt Chapman (.416) produced. Hernández was one in every of Toronto’s high performers with RISP a 12 months in the past (.521 SLG); Bellinger isn’t your complete answer, however that manufacturing will should be changed.

With MLB limiting defensive shifts in 2023, issues will robotically grow to be simpler for Bellinger, who was shifted in over 90 % of his at-bats a 12 months in the past. The shift ban ought to permit Bellinger to return to his pull-heavy strategy that produced an MVP-calibre season in 2019, when he was shifted 10 % much less and pulled the ball 47 % of the time.

Restoring Bellinger’s swing

The visible results of a standard defence in entrance of him ought to assist Bellinger. Whether or not gamers admit it or not, there’s actual frustration derived from a hard-hit ball in a gap getting snagged by a shifted fielder.

Secondly, and extra importantly, there are philosophies inside the Blue Jays’ employees of hitting coaches that ought to assist revive Bellinger’s mojo on the dish. Take Danny Jansen for instance. The Jays catcher discovered his groove as a hitter after shedding the strain of attempting to continuously use the entire subject. The 27-year-old stated he was overthinking, so he leaned into his extra comfy strategy as a pull-heavy hitter. The outcomes confirmed up, as Jansen closed the 2022 season with an .855 OPS (144 OPS+).

Bellinger’s swing is an summary murals. He has an upright setup and little or no load motion earlier than the pitch. The result’s a violent, quick-twitch slash. When Bellinger’s explosive swing is locked in, his potential is unmatched. When it’s off-kilter, prefer it has been the final two years, his swing airplane will get crazy, and he stands no probability at touching excessive pitches or maintaining his barrel within the zone lengthy sufficient to hit a breaking ball.

Bellinger comes throughout as a hitter who depends on “really feel” and luxury within the field, very like Raimel Tapia, who labored with Jays coaches a 12 months in the past to from the left aspect. If Toronto indicators Bellinger, count on the Blue Jays to let him clear his thoughts, persist with his strengths, and swing away as he restores his confidence.

Baserunning and defence

Pace and defence don’t droop. If the Blue Jays can strike a take care of Bellinger, he may simply assume duties in centre subject (if George Springer is able to transfer) or proper subject. He profiled because the ninth-best centre fielder in baseball final season (seven outs above common) and possesses above-average arm power.

Moreover, Bellinger has completed every of his 5 MLB seasons with a dash pace above the seventieth percentile and stole 14 luggage on 17 tries in 2022. The Blue Jays’ roster could be instantly improved by his baserunning and fielding abilities, which might assist to mitigate a few of the danger related together with his hitting profile.

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