On Tuesday night, Dodgers outfielder Andrew Toles tore his ACL while chasing down a fly ball in left field. It was more of the same for the Dodgers, who have been one of the most injury-plagued teams in recent memory. Also more of the same: They just keep finding good young players to plug the holes, and they just keep winning games.
Starting in place of Toles in left last night was 21-year-old rookie Cody Bellinger, whom the Dodgers selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Bellinger profiles as a power-hitting first baseman or corner outfielder—he hit 53 home runs in two seasons between Single A and Double A—and was called up in late April to soak up at-bats while the Dodgers waited for some of their hitters to come off the disabled list. All he’s done in the 14 games he’s played since then is hit the dick off the ball; he’s currently carrying a .315/.383/.704 slash line. He hit his sixth dinger of the year last night, an opposite-field shot that looked like the work of a true power hitter:
Perhaps even more impressive was his play in the field. In the fourth inning, he made a diving stop in left that made it clear he’s more than just a thumper:
So far, Bellinger’s production has been a nice bonus for the Dodgers—it’s always nice when a rookie can come up and get hot for a week or two before going back to the minors—but with Toles now done for the year, Bellinger might be sticking around longterm.
If he stays up for a full season, Bellinger’s numbers will certainly regress—the huge strikeout rate he carried in the minors will probably return to punish him at some point—but for now it looks like the Dodgers have found yet another young player in their system that can help them win games right now. It’s that ability that kept the team afloat all last season, and it’s what continues to keep an organization that has the crowded disabled list and the bloated payroll of a much worse franchise nimble and competitive. As long as guys like Cody Bellinger keep rising through the ranks, the Dodgers will stay bulletproof.