Cody Bellinger won the Jackie Robinson National League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday by unanimous vote. Starting the season in Triple-A, Bellinger had the second-most home runs in the NL. He impacted the Los Angeles Dodgers not only with his powerful bat, but with his superior running and defense.
The Dodgers have had the most Rookies of the Year in baseball history. The award started in 1947 with Robinson the inaugural winner. Since 1987, the award bears his name.
The Dodgers didn't want to push the then-21-year-old Bellinger too fast to the Majors, even after a terrific Spring Training, so he began the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Bellinger was promoted not long after, when Dodgers veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was dealing with an array of injuries and the team's offense lagged, Los Angeles looked to Bellinger to give the team a spark. The organization thought the promotion was temporary since Bellinger needed refinements to his swing, but Bellinger had other ideas. The team began winning at a record-setting pace.
Bellinger's Major League transition went better than expected. He delivered many crucial hits, with more than half of his 39 homers coming in the seventh inning or later. By July, he had assumed the cleanup role in the Dodgers' lineup.
The accolades continued throughout the season. Bellinger participated in the Home Run Derby -- with his father, former Major Leaguer Clay Bellinger, pitching to him -- and was named to the National League All-Star team.
In early September, Bellinger broke the Dodgers' franchise record for rookie home runs established in 1993 by Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. Later in the month, he established a new National League rookie home run record previously held by Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.
Bellinger is extremely athletic. Many baseball heads thought he would struggle to hit for a high average, but Bellinger wrapped his freshman campaign with a .267 batting average. Although he struck out 146 times, mostly swinging, he walked 64 times, many of those came in critical times for the Dodgers. He had the fifth highest slugging percentage and the 10th highest on-base plus slugging percentage in the league.
Although Bellinger stole just 10 bases in 2017, he was the fastest Dodgers baserunner. His long strides ate up ground, and sometimes when the opposition shifted on him, Bellinger would drop a bunt down the third-base line and use his speed to reach base.
Bellinger played mostly first base in Gonzalez's absence, doing well enough there that many think he will earn a Gold Glove Award there someday. He can also play all three outfield positions, possessing a strong arm that resulted in two outfield assists this season.
It's difficult to point to any one player as the reason for the Dodgers' success in 2017, but Bellinger made a positive impact on the team from his promotion on. He helped the Dodgers make their historic 55-11 midseason run. While Bellinger was on the disabled list with a sprained ankle from August 20-30, the Dodgers struggled offensively and began a slump during which they lost 16 of 17.
Bellinger drove in two of the Dodgers' three runs during the decisive Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks this year. Although he established a record for strikeouts during a World Series with 17, he had two important doubles and a three-run homer during the World Series while playing stellar defense at first base.
Bellinger played with a youthful enthusiasm and intensity that the Dodgers needed. Of course, he will have growing pains in his career. Nevertheless, Bellinger should have a bright, long career ahead of him.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.